Dr. Charles (Charlie) Whitcomb, a beloved member of the SJSU community for more than four decades, passed away July 15. He earned two degrees from San Jose State, and then served as a faculty member, department chair and academic leader.
At his request, a celebration of life will be held on campus in the Music Concert Hall on July 25, at 11 a.m., with a reception to follow immediately (directions to campus and parking).
In lieu of flowers, friends can donate to the Charlie Whitcomb Scholarship Fund. Gifts can be made online or by mail (Tower Foundation of SJSU, One Washington Square, San Jose, Calif., 95192-0183).
His impact is readily apparent from the many personal reflections and expressions of affection for Whitcomb received since his family shared news of his passing.
“He was the kindest person you ever met,” said Jessica Larsen, who worked with him in the Provost’s Office. “He was always positive, cheerful and never said anything bad about anybody. He always took bad situations and found the goodness in it.”
Larsen noted that he was an advocate for SJSU students from less fortunate backgrounds, who didn’t have as many opportunities.
“I will always remember his smile,” she said. “That is how I remember him.”
Devoted to diversity
Whitcomb was especially devoted to diversity and his passion is reflected in his many speaking engagements during his tenure as a faculty member and chair. He presented on issues related to diversity and athletics at multiple National Collegiate Athletic Association events and served as SJSU’s NCAA faculty representative for 20 years. In 1991, Whitcomb was appointed the first chair of the NCAA’s Minority Opportunities and Interests Committee. The group was, by any measure, incredibly impactful during his 10-year tenure.
In addition, he served on dozens of college and university-wide committees, including the University Commencement Committee, the Accommodations Review Board, the University Campus Climate Committee, Academic Senate and multiple search committees, among others.
He started his distinguished career at SJSU in 1971 as a faculty member in the Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies (now part of Health Science and Recreation), serving as a department chair from 1988 to 2002. He was appointed executive assistant to the provost in 2003, eventually serving as vice provost of academic administration and personnel through his retirement in 2012.
He earned two degrees from SJSU: a bachelor’s in Justice Studies with a minor in Psychology in 1971 and a master’s in Recreation Management in 1975, before going on to earn his doctorate in higher education from the University of Northern Colorado.
Positive and hopeful spirit
Those who knew him best describe Whitcomb as bringing a positive and hopeful spirit to every situation, with an infectious laugh and smile, and an unwavering dedication to our students.
“He took with him his fun, playful spirit, his undeniable dedication to SJSU for over 44 years, his belief in dignity and justice across all people, his love of students, athletes, faculty, staff and friends, regardless of race,” said colleague Dr. Kate Sullivan, a hospitality management professor. “He listened AND he heard. So many considered him a friend on this campus! I will always see his smile and hear his laughter and remember all the things he taught me as my dear mentor over the last 28 years.”
Before joining SJSU as a tenure-track faculty member in 1972, he worked as a counselor for Santa Clara County Juvenile Probation Department Children’s Shelter for six years. He was involved with many community organizations as well. He served on the board of directors for the National Park and Recreation Association from 1978 to 1981 and as a board director with Community Kids to Camp from 1985 to 1988,