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In the Presence of Courage

I traveled to the Harvard Faulty Club on Wednesday to be present as my friend and long-time colleague was honored for his years of service at Harvard and to mark his retirement due to the diagnosis in 2009 of dementia.

Courage was in attendance as Charlie listened and then spoke to the approximately 120 guests assembled.

Notable moments:

The Red, Gold and Silver Bow Ties
Charlie's thoughtful "boss" Tamara and her staff provided sequined bow ties for all the quests to wear and they did (many guests wore theirs over their own bow ties). The speakers, each more eloquent in their remarks than the next, knew Charlie well and shared how he had changed their lives as well as their professional approach to asking for money.

The Remarks of a Donor
Speaking for others, a long-time donor to Harvard articulated how Charlie's approach had changed him, his family and the way they thought of contributing to the future of Harvard. He described the change that he experienced in the relationship between professional advisor and donor. While he laughed at Charlie's bent for personally probing questions, he also related how they had contributed to these changes.

Charlie's Remarks
As for Charlie’s remarks, his themes were all about honoring others and how much his work has meant to him. The subtext, however, was even more meaningful. One side effect of his diagnosis has been that words are sometimes difficult to say. Al Halliday, his colleague, stood quietly by, assisting when a word had too many syllables. Charlie delivered his remarks in the emotional context of friends and family and change.

Two More Colliers
The next generation of the Charles Collier family, Whit and Ben, demonstrate so clearly how the deeply developed bond between one generation and the next can ease the impact of a difficult health challenge. These two young men exemplify everything that Charlie has stood for in his counsel to clients over the years. They are also two quite good looking young men.

Comments from a Few Attendees
"My life would have been different without Charlie's counsel and approach."
“I owe him a great deal."
"Charlie helped me set up the foundation in ways that honored all of my interests."

To the Future
Charlie leaves Harvard with a plan to continue his "game changing" approach to giving, and his staff, Anne, Al and Peter, is already involved in continuing his legacy in Family Systems. It was an honor to be there and watch a beloved colleague “lean into" the future, challenged by a diagnosis for which there is no known cure. The courage and stamina with which he stands tall in the middle of this uncertainty is a lesson I will not soon forget. Once again Charlie is breaking new ground and changing the game.


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