Charles Gordon, Ph.D., 1940-2004

A tribute written by professor and friend Andrew Brook

Charles Gordon was one of the best-known and best-loved figures at Carleton University. He was a member of the planning committees for no less than nine new academic programmes, including all the environmental programmes, humanities, and industrial design. He was a fixture on Senate for 30 years. And he supervised, advised, and mentored hundreds of students, probably his greatest legacy.

Charlie joined the Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 1967 from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He was cross-appointed to the School of Architecture in 1980. Longtime Associate Director of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies, he gave up his beloved interdisciplinary students to become Chair of Sociology/Anthropology in 2001.

Author of over 30 papers and book chapters, Charlie’s special interest was the built environment, but he also published in industrial sociology, sociology of education, urban politics, and on the relationship between design, work, and politics. He loved arresting titles. Some of the better are ‘Goldilocks and the Three Sociologists’, ‘Design Alienation and Resistance’, ‘Shut Up and Eat Your Spinach’, ‘Crime as Designed’, and ‘The Raw and the Taxed’.

Charlie was famous for his nonchalance about paperwork. What few know is that this was a matter of principle. He trusted students and did not trust regulations. As he liked to say, ‘rules are for the obedience of fools and the guidance of the wise’.

Charles Gordon was a distinguished member of faculty. His areas of distinction, vital to the university but less visible than some, were mentorship of students, planning of new programmes, and educational policy planning.

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