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Eastern's Fourth President Charles Webb Passes

Published on October 21, 2020

Eastern's Fourth President Charles Webb Passes

Charles Webb

Charles Webb, president of Eastern from 1970-1988, passed away peacefully in his sleep on Oct. 8.  He had recently celebrated his 101st birthday with family and friends on Oct. 4. Ever the humorist, during that birthday party, Webb was bothered by a pesky fly; when asked if he felt old on his 101st birthday, he replied, “Well, when I was 100, I would have gotten that fly.”

A graduate of the University of California–Berkeley, Webb held master’s and doctoral degrees from Harvard University. Prior to coming to Eastern, he was chairman of the History Department at San Diego State College.

During Webb’s tenure, Eastern Connecticut State College became Eastern Connecticut State University and grew from fewer than 1,000 students to 4,000 students.  He also led the construction of nine buildings on the North Campus: five new residence halls, the original J. Eugene Smith Library (now Wood Support Services), Geissler Gymnasium, the Student Center and Wickware Planetarium. Webb Hall, which opened its doors in 1992, was named in President Webb’s honor in 1999.

Webb also provided leadership in the creation of new majors in Environmental Earth Science, Communication and Computer Science. During his administration the college also reorganized into three distinct schools: Arts and Sciences; Education and Professional Studies; and Continuing Education.

Dramatic change took place in the United States during Webb’s administration. The impact of the civil rights and women’s rights movements, as well as other cultural and social trends, could be seen across the country, as well as at Eastern. Campus activities and study abroad programs reflected the adventurous spirit of the times as well as student interest in such issues as the environment, women’s rights and affirmative action. A champion of students and faculty, Webb instituted “open door” office hours when people could visit him in the library.

A staunch supporter of NCAA Division III athletics during his administration, Webb was instrumental in increasing Eastern’s varsity teams from four (all for men) to 11, including six for women. One of his first initiatives was launching construction of the $2.7 million Sports Center in February 1971. A national softball championship in 1981 was the beginning of nine national Division III championships in baseball and softball.

President Webb also enjoyed and contributed to the campus culture. His musical group, “Grooves of Academe,” often played at campus events, and featured Professor Kenneth Parzych on drums, Professor Ed Drew on bass, and President Webb on vibraphone.   Associate Dean Sophie Jenkins sometimes joined the group on accordion and adjunct professor Frederick “Doc” Mirliani occasionally played saxophone.

Nov. 13, 1984, was an especially “groovy day” at Eastern, when jazz legend Lionel Hampton came to Eastern. During a pre-concert ceremony, Webb formally declared Hampton an honorary professor of music, and then they played a couple songs together to the delight of the audience. “You are a real cool cat,” Hampton was heard to say. 

Forty years earlier they had performed a similar duet when Benny Goodman’s quartet, featuring Hampton, was in town to perform at the University of California.  Webb was not a novice on his instrument; back at San Diego State during the 1950s, his band of college professors was known as the Ivory Tower Jazz Quartet.

Webb's wife, Andrée, preceded him in death in 2005; he is survived by his son, Charles Richard Webb III, a landscape painter who goes by the name Richard Webb McDaniel.

Those wishing to make a gift in Dr. Webb’s honor may donate to the Andrée and C.R. Webb Scholarship created in 2002 for students with financial need.  Checks should be made out to the ECSU Foundation and sent to the Development Office, 83 Windham Street, Willimantic, CT  06226

President Webb joins President Nunez at Dr. Carter's Inauguration as CSU Chancellor in 2006

President Webb with Governor Ella Grasso at 1978 Commencement

Webb Hall opened in 1992 and was dedicated in 1999

Presidents Webb, Smith and Carter at CSCU Board Meeting in 1988