Kenyon Remembers Charles ‘Chuck’ Rice

Charles "Chuck" Rice H’94, professor emeritus of psychology who taught for 25 years, died Dec. 27.

Charles Rice
Charles "Chuck" Rice H’94.

Charles "Chuck" Rice H’94, professor emeritus of psychology and a longtime member of the College Township volunteer fire department, died Dec. 27 at the age of 93. A resident of Gambier, he joined the Department of Psychology in 1969 and retired 25 years later in 1994.

Born Nov. 22, 1930 in Zanesville, Ohio, Rice attended Denison University, where he majored in history and met his future wife, Jo Lea Bennett, whom he married in 1952. Three years later, he joined the admissions office at Kenyon, serving as assistant of admissions.

In 1958, Rice moved on to Florida State University, this time as a graduate student. Interested in research, he earned a doctorate in psychology and focused on animal perception. 

After spending time at the Stanford Research Institute in California (now SRI International), he returned to Kenyon in 1969 as a professor of psychology. He also served as the editor of the scholarly publication The Psychological Record for 30 years starting in the mid-1970s.

Rice’s son Ted said that creating a sense of community was important to his father, who enjoyed mentoring others and organized regular gatherings with those who were new to campus.

“There was a phase where he and mom would have pizza every Wednesday night with various new faculty,” he said. 

Such gatherings continued when Rice helped create the After Kenyon Society for retired faculty and staff.

Rice, who received an honorary degree in 1994, was interested in creating conditions on campus that would help students from a diversity of backgrounds be well-prepared for college and was co-founder of a predecessor to the Summer Scholars program, according to his son.

“He wanted to help people succeed,” Ted Rice said.

Colleagues remembered Rice as a man of dignity who embodied important values. 

“He was very thoughtful, very well-organized, very committed to the work that he did, both in the department and for the publication that he edited and for the fire department,” said Allan Fenigstein, emeritus professor of psychology.

As chair of the department when Fenigstein was hired, Rice was supportive, accessible, caring and easy to talk to, no matter how busy he was, his former colleague said.

Fred Baumann, professor of political science, described his friend and former colleague as kind but formidable, funny but principled — and unfailingly devoted to his belief in a liberal arts education.

“He was willing to stand up and say so and fight for it,” said Fred Baumann. “He loved Kenyon. He held it to a high standard. … He always wanted it to be better.”

Rice felt a “deep commitment” to the community, his son said, and he was proud to be part of the College Township Fire Department — which serves the Village of Gambier and Kenyon — for more than 30 years.

He recruited other faculty to serve as well as students, some of whom went on to careers in medicine. 

“Whenever they got a call … in the middle of a lecture, they would just put their pens down and run out the door and get to the fire department as soon as possible,” Fenigstein said. “I actually thought that was part of my job when I was first interviewed at Kenyon.”

Rice was dedicated to public service — which also included serving on the Knox Community Hospital Board — but his work with the fire department did take a toll, his son said.

“He carried a lot of friends on their last trip to the hospital over the years, and that was hard on him,” he said.

Rice, who was named Gambier Citizen of the Year in 1997, wrote a memoir called “Last Call” about his experiences with the fire department and the evolution of volunteer fire departments and emergency services.

Survivors include his wife of 71 years, Jo; his children and their spouses, Ted Rice (Siobhan Fennessy, professor of biology and the Philip & Sheila Jordan Professor in Environmental Studies), Karen (Pete) Pavlik, Charles E. (Mary) Rice II, and Elizabeth (Glenn) Forthofer; 10 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren (and one on the way).

Burial will be a private ceremony at the Kenyon College Cemetery on Tues., Jan. 23, with an open reception to follow at 11:30 a.m. at The Kenyon Inn.