Charles Frederick Dey
1930 - 2020
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On April 16, 2020, Charles Frederick Dey died peacefully at home in Walpole, NH, at the age of 89. Charley, or "Doc," to his Dartmouth friends, wanted to be remembered first and foremost as an educator who worked to bring about positive change. During his 60 years as a teacher, an administrator and a social entrepreneur, Charley fought for racial equity and equal educational opportunity. He was born in Newark, NJ in 1930, and attended public schools in his home communities of Millburn and Short Hills. Despite his many later years of service in the private school world, he always believed that strong public education was the cornerstone of a just and equitable society. Charley followed his older brother Bill to college at Dartmouth. Although he joked that it was Bill's remarkable athletic ability that secured his own admission, Charley himself played varsity football and tennis, and graduated in 1952 with Distinction in History. A three year stint as an officer in the Navy followed, during which Charley reached the rank of Lieutenant while serving on the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Albany in the Mediterranean. "At heart I'm a patriot," he said, "and I'm a great believer, not so much in the things that our country has done, but in the promise of our society and what we can become at our best." While on shore leave in December of 1955, on a blind date that had been arranged by his younger sister Judy, Charley met Phoebe Evans in New York City under the clock at the Biltmore Hotel. Although he was four hours late, detouring along the way to allow a fellow seaman to visit his dying grandmother, Phoebe waited, and their hearts and lives have been joined since that day. With his interest in working with young people, his love of history and his athletic abilities, Charley gravitated naturally to a career in education. He assumed that would be in the public sector, but after obtaining his master's degree from Havard's Graduate School of Education, a letter from a friend led him to a teaching fellowship at Phillips Andover Academy. After four years as a history teacher at Andover, Charley returned to Dartmouth with Phoebe and their two daughters, Penny and Robin. In the 1960's, Charley worked as Associate Dean of Dartmouth College, and then as Dean of the Tucker Foundation, fulfilling college president John Dickey's mandate to "introduce students to the unfinished business of society." While at Dartmouth, Charley's leadership led to the expansion of opportunities for Dartmouth students to learn through the experience of working with those outside the typical college experience, including programs with minority students in Jersey City, gang members in Chicago, rural youth in Mississippi, and perhaps most significantly, through A Better Chance, an organization that continues to prepare young people from disadvantaged communities for positions of leadership. Inspired by JFK's call to service, in 1962 Charley, Phoebe and their two daughters spent a year in the Philippines, where he worked as the in-country director of volunteers for the Peace Corps. Son Andrew was born there, and son Tom arrived after the family's return to Hanover. In 1973, Charley was hired as head of school to unite The Choate School and Rosemary Hall into a single coeducational institution. With Phoebe's steadfast support, he led the transformation of two schools into one, working tirelessly to ensure that the education of young women at the school was given as high a priority as that of young men. Charley's tenure as head of Choate Rosemary Hall was characterised by increased access and diversity, broad outreach to the wider community, and innovative public-private collaborations. Following eighteen years of service at Choate Rosemary, Charley and Phoebe moved to Lyme, CT. Together they tended to gardens and bluebirds in the fields surrounding their 1720's Cape. Before long, Charley was bringing his experience and passion to the disability world. "I'd like you to do in the 1990s for people with disabilities what you did for minorities in the 1960s" charged his dear friend and college roommate Alan Reich, founder and president of the National Organization on Disability. In response, Charley developed the program Start on Success (SOS), a public-private partnership to assist students with disabilities in transitioning from school to the workplace. He found this work particularly fulfilling because it brought him back into the public school realm. Charley's final years were shaped by the mantra "Phoebe, family and fun!" He and Phoebe moved into a renovated barn in Walpole, NH, adjacent to son Andrew's house. There they enjoyed gardening together, hosting family gatherings, taking walks and holding hands on the loveseat in their living room. Although Charley was never one to seek the spotlight, it often found him. In 2002, he was awarded the Tucker Foundation's first Lester B. Granger Award for his dedication to education, racial equality and public service. He received the inaugural Purpose Prize from in 2006, given to social entrepreneurs who in their later years contribute substantially to society. Harvard's Graduate School of Education honored him with an Alumni Council Award in 2010, in recognition of his "deep and lasting impact on the world." Long-time colleague and friend Ed Maddox said of Charley, "He changed lives, he created communities, he brought people together, he advocated for those who had no one else, he was an instrument for change in the face of organizations and people who resisted change and were stuck in the comfort of the past or the status quo. He was a friend, a mentor, and a force for what is good and just in this world." Charley's caring, integrity, humility and humor live on in the many people whose lives he touched. He is survived by his loving wife of 64 years, Phoebe Evans Dey, by his children and their spouses: Penelope Dey, Robin Dey, Andrew Dey (Annette) and Tom Dey (Coliena Rentmeester), by his grandchildren Rani, Mamta, Julian and Phoebe Dey, and by his sister Judith K. Dey. Charley's children will be scheduling a Celebration of Life for late summer or early fall, at Choate Rosemary Hall in Wallingford, CT. Donations in his memory can be made to the National Organization on Disability (

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Published in Hartford Courant on Apr. 27, 2020.
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4 entries
May 1, 2020
I never knew this gentlemen. In reading his obituary my heart is a flutter of what he has accomplished in his lifetime. I wish to sincerely thank his family for sharing him with our community. WIthout his desire for all to have a proper education my daughter would not have been able to attend private school in todays society. For that I am grateful for the doors he opened. My deepest sympathy is with your family. I hope in knowing that your loved one is / was a rare gem that came into this world and made an impact that will continue for generations to come. Thank you for sharing this wonderful person with us.
Krystal Reid
April 29, 2020
I am so sorry to hear about the families loss.may the families hearts ♥ be filled with wonderful memories of joyful times the family shared together with the dear loved one lost in death.As the family cherished a wonderful life that was well lived and loved by families and heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the families during this difficult time of grief and pain.
April 28, 2020
Mr. Dey was a gentle soft spoken giant and President of our school in Wallingford, Ct during my years at Choate/ Rosemary. A voice of reason during the Packard police state years - last saw him at my uncle Lou's funeral in Old Lyme and he was as great as ever. A voice of compassion when I got tossed. R.I.P. Charlie !!! Pete Connick
April 28, 2020
As a Choatie graduating in 1976, I was too young fully to appreciate Mr Dey's content of character. The night he was introduced to us in 1973 -- I was a ninth grader -- he told me how he had de-segregated his fraternity in his college (Dartmouth, I believe). What struck me the most about Mr Dey was his effort to be a conciliator in a troubled time. He forgave me for criticising him and the school. That act alone set an example of what it means to be the best this country can produce. As the scriptures bless peace-makers, this child of God is free to play again. With regret and undiminished gratitude,
Edward J. McDonnell III, C76
Ned McDonnell
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