An Adult Education Pioneer

Alex Charters portraitAlexander N. Charters, Ph.D., former dean of University College and creator of Syracuse University’s Charters Library for Educators of Adults, died on August 7, just before his 102nd birthday.

Alex was an international expert in the field of adult and continuing education. A native of Alberta, Canada, Alex’s career path was inspired by his aunt and uncle, Jessie and W.W. Charters, who were active in the field of adult education. During college, Alex spent a summer working in a logging camp. He tutored immigrants in the evening, confirming his lifelong path.

In 1948, Alex’s career in adult education began when he was appointed assistant to the dean of University College. He served Syracuse University for more than 30 years in various positions, including dean of University College, assistant vice president for continuing education, and professor of adult education. After retiring in 1983, he continued to be an outspoken advocate for adult education. In 1986, he was awarded Syracuse University’s prestigious William Pearson Tolley Award for Distinguished Leadership in Adult Education.

Alex encouraged his fellow academics and members of professional organizations to donate their personal papers and organizational records to Syracuse University’s Special Collections Research Center. This assembly of books, pamphlets, photos, dissertations, audiovisual items, and journals became part of the Alexander Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults, and is considered the largest English-language archive of adult and continuing education materials in the world.

Alex Charters circa 1952In 2016, Alex and his wife Margaret, an SU alum and former SU faculty member, made a donation to the Syracuse University Libraries to create the Alexander N. Charters Library Initiative Fund. These funds were used to develop and expand the Charters Library on campus and in the field.

Alex is survived by his wife Margaret, three sons, a daughter, and many grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be made to the Syracuse University Libraries in support of the Charters Library of Resources for Educators of Adults.