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In Memoriam: Charles Ritcheson, 86

In Memoriam: Charles Ritcheson, 86
Charles Ritcheson

Charles Ray Ritcheson, USC University Librarian Emeritus and Colin Rhys Lovell Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, died Dec. 8 at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 86.

State Librarian Emeritus of California, University Professor and associate dean of USC Libraries Kevin Starr said, “Charles Ritcheson brought a first-rate mind, an impeccable academic background, the rank of University Professor, and the personal charm and panache that made him such a successful cultural attaché at the U.S. Embassy in London.”

Born in 1925 in Maysville, Okla., Ritcheson earned a BA in philosophy and classics from the University of Oklahoma in 1946. While an undergraduate, he served in the U.S. Navy Reserve as a lieutenant, junior grade (1942-45).

After postgraduate study in history at Harvard and Zurich universities, Ritcheson received his Ph.D. from St. Edmund Hall at Oxford University. In 1951, Ritcheson joined the faculty at Oklahoma College for Women as an assistant professor of history.

He would go on to serve as chairman of the history department at Kenyon College and director of graduate studies in history at Southern Methodist University.

Ritcheson was appointed the Colin Rhys Lovell Professor of History at USC in 1971. Three years later, he detoured from teaching to serve as cultural attaché for the U.S. Embassy in London – a position he held until 1977 when he returned to his former post at the university.

Between 1984 and 1990, he served as University Professor, university librarian, dean of the USC Libraries and special adviser to the university president. In 1988, he worked with actress Marjorie Lord Volk and Friends of the USC Libraries board president Glenn Sonnenberg to co-found the USC Libraries Scripter Award.

He was a strong advocate for library automation, electronic library services and innovative library spaces – such as Leavey Library, which would be built shortly after his retirement – that supported student research and learning in new ways.

“Much of our work today,” said Catherine Quinlan, dean of the USC Libraries, “does indeed continue to build on the foundations Dr. Ritcheson helped put in place a quarter century ago.”

After his retirement from USC in 1991, Ritcheson was appointed executive vice president of The Fund for Arts and Culture in Eastern Europe (1991-96), serving as country director for Hungary and Poland. In 1997, he became executive vice president for planning for the Trust for Museum Exhibitions in Washington, D.C.

Ritcheson was a fellow of the Royal Historical Society, a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Cosmos Club, and he served on the boards of numerous international organizations like The Ditchley Foundation, The University of Buckingham, the Friends of Covent Garden and the Société Française d’Archeologie. In 2000, USC honored him with a Faculty Lifetime Achievement Award.

Funeral services are scheduled for Dec. 28 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Holy Trinity Catholic Church, 3513 N Street NW in Washington, D.C. His family has requested that donations be directed to Doctors Without Borders in lieu of sending flowers.

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