Charles H. Trout, 70, former Washington College president

September 30, 2006|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN REPORTER

Charles H. Trout, former president of Washington College who recognized that historic Chestertown and the surrounding Chesapeake Bay region were a natural "learning laboratory" for students, died of myelodysplastic syndrome, a rare blood disorder, Wednesday at a hospital in Bryn Mawr, Pa. He was 70.

It was during his tenure at the college, from 1990 to 1995, that Dr. Trout initiated the Chesapeake regional studies program, which was a forerunner of the college's environmental studies major and the Center for the Environment and Society.

He also envisioned something akin to The C. V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, an idea that came to fruition a decade later.

"Many of Chuck Trout's initiatives have been responsible for some of our greatest successes. He also cared deeply about diversity issues, and was willing to take risks to attract a more diversified student body," said Washington College President Baird Tipson.

"He laid the groundwork for our centers in American history and the environment, and his decision to join the Centennial Conference placed Washington College within a solid group of athletic and academic peers," he said.

"He brought a vision to Washington College that made it a more diverse institution, and he was able to elicit the wholehearted support of the faculty in this venture," said Joachim J. Scholz, a former colleague and provost. "He was a first-rate historian in his own right who strongly believed in the liberal arts. He was a man of great intellectual tastes."

In addition to a more diverse student body, Dr. Trout inaugurated a sabbatical program for junior faculty members and programs in behavioral neuroscience and gender studies.

He also left a physical mark on the Washington College campus with the construction of the Benjamin A. Johnson Lifetime Fitness Center and the renovation of Hodson Hall. Other significant projects included the installation of new landscaping and removing interior campus parking.

In 1996, Dr. Trout and his wife, the former Katherine Taylor, spent a year in Kenya as participants in the Teachers for Africa program.

While Mrs. Trout built the first free-standing primary school library in the Western Highlands, Dr. Trout oversaw the largest school fundraiser in the history of West Kenya, raising $60,000.

The funds raised by Dr. Trout were used to bring running water and electricity into the boarding school and build a new academic wing with two large classrooms and a library, as well as a new cookhouse and a dormitory.

In 2002, Dr. Trout became president of Harcum College in Bryn Mawr, and he immediately set about revitalizing the two-year college. He doubled enrollment and launched new academic programs in nursing, radiological technology, sports management and criminal justice.

He also revived Harcum's intercollegiate athletic program. He introduced women's basketball, men's basketball, women's volleyball, and a coed track and field team.

Born in Seattle, and raised in Oneida, N.Y., Dr. Trout earned a bachelor's degree from Amherst College in 1957. He earned his master's and doctorate degrees in American history from Columbia University.

He began his teaching career at The Hill School in Pottstown, Pa., and Phillips Exeter Academy in Exeter, N.H.

In 1969, he joined the faculty of Mount Holyoke College, where he taught courses on the sociopolitical history of 19th- and 20th-century America. He later became chairman of the college's history department.

While at Mount Holyoke, Dr. Trout was named a National Endowment for the Humanities Senior Fellow and a Charles Warren Fellow at Harvard University.

In 1981, he was named provost at Colgate University, where he worked until coming to Washington College in 1990.

A social historian, Dr. Trout's field of academic interest included the Progressive Era during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt and the New Deal years of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

He was the author of Boston During the Great Depression 1929-1940, as well as dozens of articles, papers and book reviews.

Plans for services were incomplete yesterday.

In addition to his wife of 22 years, an elementary school teacher, Dr. Trout is survived by two sons, Benjamin C. Trout of South Portland, Maine, and Nicholas H. Trout of Virginia Beach, Va.; a daughter, Katherine D. Griffiths Callender of Cambridge, Mass.; and five grandchildren. His marriage to Margot Stevens ended in divorce.

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