Remembering Charles Preston Whitlock

Remembering Charles Preston Whitlock

Whitlock, a distinguished veteran of World War II, graduated Rutgers in 1941

Charles Preston Whitlock, 95, a distinguished veteran of World War II and of the transformations that shaped postwar higher education in the United States, died April 27 after a brief illness. He was the husband of Patricia H. “Patsy” (Hoey) Whitlock with whom he shared 55 years of marriage. A resident of Gloucester, Massachusetts, for the past 33 years, he previously resided in Cambridge.

He was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey, June 19, 1919 to Frank and Rosena (Foster) Whitlock. His father was a prominent banker and businessman until he lost his financial footing during the Great Depression. A 1937 graduate of New Brunswick High School, Whitlock went on to attend Rutgers University, where he excelled academically and in the ROTC program. Named “Best Soldier” while in school, he graduated in 1941, Phi Beta Kappa, as Cadet Colonel with a bachelor’s degree in English.

Following graduation, Whitlock saw active service in World War II as a B-24 bomber pilot in the Pacific theater, completing 57 combat missions over three tours of duty. In time he became squadron leader and upon his return stateside, a military flight instructor. His leadership, skill and fortitude led to several commendations, among them the Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal and the Silver Star. Following the war he remained in the reserves and was officially retired from the Air Force in 1979 as a full colonel. In later years he often commented that he never expected to make it home, which he thought may have accounted for his success, since he never relaxed.

After the war he married the former Agnes Clothier, daughter of Robert Clothier, president of Rutgers University from 1932-51. The couple had two children, Carol and Cary. The marriage later ended in divorce.

Whitlock spent his entire professional career at Harvard University, where he earned a master's degree in English in 1947. Beginning in the late 1940s, he lectured in social psychology for over two decades. From 1948 to 1958 he served as associate director of the Bureau of Study Counsel, where he co-authored the Harvard Reading Films with William G. Perry Jr. He later held a variety of administrative posts, serving as assistant for governmental relations to President Nathan Pusey, 1958-70; associate dean, acting dean and then dean of Harvard College, 1970-1976; and associate dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences from 1976 until his retirement in 1982. Whitlock also had a long relationship with Dudley House, which he served as senior tutor from 1952 to 1958 and as master from 1976 to 1982. He is also remembered for his work with Phillips Brooks House. The totality of his work prompted Harvard University professor and student of higher education Henry Rosovsky to observe, “Charlie Whitlock belonged to that small group of totally loyal career administrators – mostly World War II veterans – without whom Harvard could not have achieved academic excellence. He was among the very best of the type."

Whitlock’s time at Harvard saw particular challenges, which he tackled as he had all assignments, blending purpose and intent with a sense of right and wrong. He served as a liaison to the city of Cambridge under Pusey, working closely with the city during the student unrest of the late 1960s. As dean in the early 1970s, he helped oversee the merger of Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges. Ultimately he aimed to make Harvard a hospitable place for students, according to former Harvard President Derek Bok. “Without Charlie and a group of loyal colleagues like him, Harvard College could have become a much more impersonal and difficult place for many, many students. His constant efforts to make the college function smoothly and humanely for all who passed through it made an immense contribution to the institution and to the lives of many students. We owe him a great debt."

Whitlock was an enthusiast for exotic plants, especially Bromeliads. He loved and had extensive knowledge of both big band jazz and classical music. He enjoyed time spent with family and appreciated the outdoors.

In addition to his wife Patsy, he is survived by five children, Carol Whitlock of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Adam Whitlock and his wife Linda of San Diego, California; Susan Whitlock and her husband Earl Lewis of New York City: Matthew Whitlock and his wife Penelope Neal of Gloucester; and Beth Whitlock and her husband Christopher Houlihan of Sudbury; one brother, Baird Whitlock and his wife Joan of Belfast, Maine; seven grandchildren: Christopher Fost, Lindsey Mickelson, Michael Mickelson, Suzanne Lewis, Max Lewis, Samuel Houlihan and Ella Houlihan. He is also survived by three great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.

He was the father of the late Cary Whitlock, grandfather of the late Gregory Fost and brother of the late Foster Whitlock and Eloise Dunn.

In lieu of flowers the family has asked for donations to be made to The Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex St., Beverly, MA 01915-1530 ( or the Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St., Gloucester, MA 01930 (