Charley Dey Remembered

Charles Frederick Dey, who headed the school as President and Principal from 1973 to 1991 and led the process of turning The Choate School and Rosemary Hall into one educational institution, died on April 16, 2020 in at his home in Walpole, New Hampshire. He was 89.

When he arrived in Wallingford, Dey faced a daunting task: to take two largely separate schools occupying one piece of land and unite them, an undertaking that has been described as moving from "collaboration to coordination to coeducation." He succeeded beyond everyone's expectations.

The Trustees "had set a 10-year target for coeducation," wrote Tom Generous in Choate Rosemary Hall:A History of the School. "Charley Dey did it in five." Upon his retirement in 1991, the Bulletin said "he is literally the creator of the School as we know it."

Born in Newark, N.J., Dey attended public schools, then earned his undergraduate degree at Dartmouth in 1952 with Distinction in History; he also lettered in football and tennis. After three years in the Navy, where he attained the rank of Lieutenant, he married Phoebe Evans and became a teaching fellow and history instructor at Andover.In 1960, he returned to Dartmouth as Assistant Dean.

Then, in 1962, Dey took a one-year leave of absence to be an in-country director of Peace Corps volunteers in the Philippines. He and Phoebe ran a physical and mental health center for volunteers and supervised community projects across the country. In 1963, the Deys returned to Dartmouth, where he served as Associate Dean.There, he established Dartmouth's A Better Chance (ABC) summer program to help promising but poor minority students qualify for independent secondary schools. "A group of selected secondary schools and colleges were trying to deal with the immediate problem of how to broaden our pool of qualified candidates," he told the New York Times in 1993.

Dey then became Dean of the Tucker Foundation which, the college says, "educates Dartmouth students for lives of purpose and ethical leadership, rooted in service, spirituality, and social justice." He developed Tucker Internships in both rural and urban communities, including establishment of a Dartmouth Learning Center in Jersey City, N.J.

When Dey came to Wallingford in 1973, he faced the challenge of making two schools one.

"In 1973, Choate and Rosemary Hall were attempting coordinate education," Board Chairman William G. Spears '56 wrote years later. "Each school had its own campus, faculty, and Board of Trustees. The ratio of boys to girls was three to one."

Dey first united the Boards, with Elizabeth Hyde Brownell R'21 as chair. A single School handbook, coeducational classes, common diploma requirements, and a uniform way of determining and reporting grades soon followed. Two admission policies became one in 1976. The first Choate Rosemary Hall combined graduation took place in 1978.

At the same time, Dey worked hard to make the School more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. In addition to becoming active in ABC, Choate joined Prep for Prep, a program to identify and recruit academically strong but economically under-resourced New York City teens for admission to independent schools. Dey also oversaw a palpable increase in the number of day students and a significant increase to the School's financial aid budget.

Multiculturalism became a central part of Choate Rosemary Hall life, involving not only admissions but arts programs, classroom learning, religious observances, and more. He established the Office of Multicultural Affairs and oversaw the creation of the first Diversity Day.

Term-abroad programs in France and Spain were established; Japanese was added to the curriculum; and exchanges with students from Russia, Japan, Italy, Germany, and Hungary began. A new Language Learning Center opened in Brownell in 1990.

Dey's leadership also brought physical changes to the campus. In 1976, the Winter Exercise Building burned, and it was restored during the next two years as the Johnson Athletic Center. The old gymnasium became the Student Activities Center. The Science Center was dedicated in 1990, and the old Science Hall became the Paul Mellon Humanities Building.

Concern about what Dey called "normal, but nonetheless potentially consuming, adolescent problems" led him to develop a school-wide counseling team in 1977, involving psychiatrists and psychologists who were available for counseling. Five years later, a Peer Counseling team was created through which students helped their classmates discuss such topics as sexuality, eating disorders, and substance abuse.

Under Dey, Choate Rosemary Hall broadened its reach to the wider community. The School became a place where students were encouraged to perform public service away from campus. The Paul Mellon Arts Center became the home of the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra. Choate hosted the Special Olympics. The Larry Hart Pool, dedicated in 1979, offered a disabled swim program staffed with student volunteers to local residents.

Dey also contributed his significant skill and commitment to service to collaborative relationships with other educational institutions and programs. Working with the state's superintendents of urban schools, he created the Connecticut Scholars program for inner-city high school students. Another program, Young Science Scholars, drew students from all over the world. He was a director, trustee, or consultant for a range of institutions including Foundation for Excellence in Teaching, Kimball Union Academy, and the Connecticut Department of Education.

When Dey left the School in 1991, Board Chairman Bill Spears said that "Charley's vision, eloquence, and ability to implement have enabled Choate Rosemary Hall to develop a coherent, distinctive place among boarding schools. Under his leadership, we have charted our own course and have prospered."

He retired with Phoebe to Lyme, Conn., and soon headed Start On Success (SOS), a program of the National Organization on Disability that helps students with disabilities, and employers, recognize the value that disabled employees can bring to the marketplace. His founding of SOS was a major factor in his being awarded an inaugural Purpose Prize in 2006; the prize, given by, honors older "social entrepreneurs" who in their later years contribute substantially to society.The Harvard Graduate School of Education honored him with an Alumni Council Award in 2010.The Deys later moved to New Hampshire to a home built by their son Andrew.

In addition to his wife Phoebe (to whom he was lovingly married for 64 years), Mr. Dey is survived by his daughters Robin '78 and Penny, sons Andrew '81 (Annette) and Tom '83 (Coliena Rentmeester), and grandchildren Julian, Phoebe, Rani and Mamta.