Colgate Mourns McClennan

Kristen Turiano

On January 13, Colgate lost a valued member of its faculty with the passing of Charles Eliot McClennen, Professor of Geology.

Professor McClennen earned a Bachelor’s degree and a Master’s in teaching from Harvard University and a doctorate from the School of Oceanography at the University of Rhode Island. He taught in the Department of Earth Sciences at Northeastern University before coming to Colgate in 1973.

Provost and Dean of Faculty Lyle Roelofs testified to his warmth. He remembers Professor McClennen as one of the very first people to welcome him after Roelof joined the Colgate faculty. He greeted Roelofs, not simply for professional reasons, “but as people being friendly to people.”

Professor McClennen was a respected colleague, often acting as a mentor to junior faculty.

“Nearly every person liked him, because he liked and respected everyone,” Roelofs said. His closest friends spanned interests and disciplines, from scientists to musicians.

Roelofs described McClennen as a “builder” throughout his life, whether of boats, houses, curricula or academic buildings.

“Charlie couldn’t look at something without thinking how to make it better,” Roelofs said.

After coming to Colgate, McClennen enhanced the oceanography and marine geology curricula by developing the Marine and Freshwater Science major.

In addition to his position as a professor in the Department of Geology, McClennen was also chair of geology, director of the Division of Natural Sciences and Mathematics and served twice as associate dean of the faculty.

He was an accomplished academic with papers appearing in several journals, including Antarctic Science, Geological Society Annual Bulletin and Marine Geology.

Colgate students were able to participate in research cruises because of his research on the Atlantic and Antarctic continental shelf. He was featured in the science section of the New York Times and on the public television program Nova for work on the canals in Venice. McClennen’s achievements brought international recognition to Colgate.

Most recently, McClennen was deeply involved in both the Case Library and Ho Science Center projects as the faculty “shepherd,” or conduit between contractors and faculty.

“Mr. [Robert H. N.] Ho [’59] and Charlie developed a very close relationship,” Roelofs said.

McClennen’s strength in communicating and working with people made him an asset to the projects in which he was involved.

“People always thought first of Charlie,” Roelofs said, when there was a new project to coordinate.

The personal relationships he made working on these projects were as important to him as the projects themselves. His colleagues have recognized his contributions to the Colgate community.

“He was very, very touched when a classroom was named for him,” Roelofs said. Last spring, a symposium was held to honor his achievements.

A memorial service for Professor McClennen will take place in the Colgate Chapel on February 10 at 11:00 a.m. He is survived by his wife Hannah, daughter Alexandra McClennen Dohan, son Aaron McClennen and four grandchildren. He was 64.

“I don’t think there’s anyone quite like him on Colgate faculty,” said Roelofs. “I suppose that people will remember the twinkle in his eye the most.”