Prof. Dr. Charles Ryerson or "Charlie" as he is known in friends circle came first to The American College as an Oberlin Rep during the very early days of the program. If I remember correct he is the fourth rep after Joe Elder, Dav Gallup and Dav Lockwood. Those days the Oberlin Building did not exist and the reps used Coe Lodge as their residence along with a few faculty members of the College. I had finished my graduation by that time and I had left Madurai. So I did not have any interaction with him when he was a Oberlin rep. He was probably used as a tutor in the English Department like Gallup and others were.
However Charlie had developed a love for people of Madurai and their religion. These interests brought him back to Madurai many times after his first visit and I had ample opportunities to know him. He knew more about the Meenakshi temple and other smaller and rural temples in and around Madurai than many in Madurai. He could talk on Chitra festival giving lot of background about the practices of people of villages participating in it. Bicycle was his favorite vehicle in those days and one could see him anywhere in Madurai riding on his bicycle.
He had many other interests and had motivated a few in USA to go over to India for studies and research. One such person associated with Charlie that I know of had spent lot of time on research about the Nadar community particularly their "uravin murai" practices that had helped the development of the community.
His another interest was Politics. At one time he was an authority on the DMK movement. He had such a good contact with DMK hierarchy that he could walk into Chief Minister Mr. Karunanidhi's office. Sometimes his visits coincided with general elections in the country probably because of his interest in political trends of our country.
He was Professor of Theology in Princeton. Though I had not been to his office some of my friends have told me that he had a picture of Meenakshi temple that I had given him was fixed on the wall in his office. The picture, a rare one, shot from helicopter flying over the temple taken by a great photographer of Madurai, Mr. Christopher.
He is one of my friends from USA who had visited my home a few times and enjoyed the hospitality of my mother. On one Chitra Pournami day we had a moon light supper in my home Charlie and another Oberlin Rep Dennis Hudson and one or more friends were there we enjoyed the evening looking at the fire works of the Alagar festival at a distance from the open terrace of my house. A meeting I can never forget.
May his soul rest in peace.
News is in hand that Prof. Dr. Charles Ryerson is no more. Suriakumar drew my attention to the news. After I got the news Prof. Samuel Lawrence called me over phone and asked me whether I could write a note on Charlie for the website you are maintaining. There are many who could do a better job. Yet I have decided to respond to our Lawrence. You may include it in the save American college website if you think it will be of any use there. V.SRINIVASAN
Tthank you, V.S. ji. .... தருமி