Professor Charlie Bassett Remembered

 

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         Professor Bassett encompassed what was great about Colby College.  I met Professor Bassett in the Fall of 1978. As my freshman English professor, he immediately asked that the class refer to him as "Charlie". Charlie was the most approachable, entertaining, unassuming teacher I had at Colby. Charlie made every class an event as I always anticipated his "style" or flair. I was never disappointed. I thoroughly enjoyed his friendship during the years I was at Colby. He always had a kind word or demonstrated sincere interest in his former students. Later, I attended a Colby alumni summer conference mainly because Charlie was chairing the conference. The Colby community has lost a great academic, friend and wonderful educator.

Mark Anthony Ciarallo ’82

 

I don't know how I would have made it through my first two years at Colby without Bassett. The fact that this Professor, this living legend, would turn that powerful gaze toward that nervous first year version of myself and actually take the time(lots of time!) to teach me how to write...words cannot express what he did for me. Who else could make you feel good about yourself by calling you a toad? You will be missed Bassett, thank you for everything.

  Ben Farrell ’01

 

My name is Doug DeAngelis.  I graduated from Colby in 1979 as an English Literature major.  I was certainly no more than an indifferent student (President Strider’s phrase, during a rather painful interview regarding my progress toward completing Jan Plan’s on time!) but Charlie Bassett was able to coax the enthusiasm and passion out of me that I wish I could have felt for every class during those four years in Waterville.  He introduced me to at least 3 or 4 of my favorite novels of all time and was a quintessential professor of English, especially in American terms.  I still re-read The Natural every decade or so, and think kindly of Professor Bassett each time.  Thank you for the opportunity to write and pay him a small tribute.

Doug DeAngelis ’79


I took two courses with Professor Bassett. One was "American Literature 1", and the other was "Milton". There are two specific memories I'd like to share with you, but let me just say in general that Prof. Bassett possessed the perfect blend of a great sense of humor with a solemn respect for the English language and its progenitors. He always had a glint in his eyes which were sparkling blue.

Memory number one: I wrote a somewhat fanciful imagining of an afternoon in the company of Ralph Waldo Emerson for American Lit. In my paper, Emerson was out walking in a field and was suddenly captivated by a robin's egg shell beside the path, and momentarily forgetting himself, he slipped and fell "on his ass". Professor Bassett gave me a decent grade for the paper if I remember correctly. However he penned the following comment in the margin: "Emerson has no ass, just like God has no ass." I will never forget that!

Memory number two: During our Milton class, Professor Bassett often read passages from Paradise Lost out loud to us, and he did a wonderful job. Judging by his grin and his elocution, his favorite section was section 2, the debate of the fallen angels. I can still hear his voice, clear as a bell when he paused for a moment and then read (loudly, and with great enthusiasm) Satan's condescension to all of the other fallen angels, in the words "BLIND MOUTHS!". This phrase Professor Basset treated like a delicacy and made sure we all understood how fabulous it was. Serioulsy, I can still hear him saying those words 26 years later. I'll never forget that, either.

Nat Dane ’85

 

I was Professor Bassett's first student at Colby. In the spring of 1969, my junior year, Professor Benbow, then head of the English Department, set up an appointment for me to meet with the new guy who would be coming in the fall. I was looking to do a senior special topics project on F. Scott Fitzgerald and Benbow thought that he would be a good advisor for me since his specialty was American literature. We met and he agreed to take on my project. In the first semester of my senior year, I had the distict pleasure of meeting with Professor Bassett twice a week, one-on-one and usually over coffee in the Spa, to discuss my progress as well as numerous other topics (including the fact that he thought his brother was the vice-president of Europe) that arose. He was, as all of his former students know, a delight and a no-nonsense task-master. His sense of humor and knowlege of his subject matter kept me on track and resulted in a paper of about 120 pages. That was some feat before the age of the internet and word processing.

     I am saddened to learn of his passing but I know that Colby is all the richer for his tenure there.

Martha Luce Habeshian ’70

 

One day when Professor Bassett was wearing an unusually loud outfit, he started a lecture by stating that, "The first thing I need to say is that these pants are very green!"

Jim Klimek ’89

 

I had Professor Bassett in the Spring of 1972 for Freshman English.  He co-taught the course with Professor Hunt, and their repartee in class can only be described with reference to a WWF tag-team event.  I can still hear Basset saying:  "Now just a minute, Hunt...."

Fast-forward to 2007--when I have re-connected with Colby through my daughter who is then a freshman.  Seeing that Basset was still "around," and perhaps one of the last vestiges from my era as a student, I sent him an e-mail to see whether he might remember me.  I quickly received a response.

Not only did he remember me, which surprised me because I was a rather indifferent English student at the time, but he cited back to me the grades I received on the three themes I wrote in that class--two C's and a B-.Believe it or not, in those days, a C really was an "average" grade.  Of course, I got the biggest kick, however, out of his wonderfully snide comment at the end of his response:  "What's was the matter Muller—perhaps a bit distracted?"

Bill Muller ’75

 

 
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