CHUCK YOUMANS REMEMBERED
Everyone at BADA was deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Chuck Youmans (MIO ’86), an alumnus and a long-time member of the BADA family who returned to Oxford as a member of staff each summer for more than 20 years. Christopher Cook, who is joining the BADA Council and was formerly Dean of the Midsummer Conservatory Program, shares his thoughts about his friend Chuck.
He was always Chuck at BADA and never Charles Edwin Youmans Jr: with a smile as wide as the Grand Canyon and an infectious laugh that brought the sun out. He auditioned for BADA’s Midsummer in Oxford Program in 1986 with a piece from Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral and made the pilgrimage again the next year to join the MIO’s administrative team at Balliol. That was Chuck’s Summer history for the next twenty-three years. And when he returned to Chicago he would offer Tony Branch a home from home when BADA’s Joint Founder went out on recruiting trips.
Chuck was ‘can do’ and ‘hands on’, and gifted with a special empathy for the actors who came to Oxford, young and older and in between. Theatre was under his skin. He was also a master of pouring oil on troubled waters knowing how to listen and in listening soothing bruised and sometimes battered egos.
When it was suggested that he might become the Administrator of the Midsummer Conservatory Program – or Baby Balliol as he christened it – I worried that he might miss his troop of friends on the MIO, particularly the redoubtable Virginia de Vaal. But with typical ease he looked after our under 18-year-olds through the day while quietly commuting up The Broad to Big Balliol of an evening.
He was everything an Administrator should be, flexible, open to new ideas and a master at sowing harmony amongst the faculty. He had a gift for ‘back pocket’ finance finding funds for all manner of impish schemes. When my attempts to produce a grand dinner on two electric rings fused the electrics in two buildings, it was Chuck who sorted us out. And his broad shoulders happily accommodated my occasional laments about life, art and the whole damn thing.
Above all it was the students he cherished. He understood the peaks and troughs of adolescence and was as handy with encouragement as he was with a handkerchief to mop the tears. With infinite patience he made sure they kept in touch with regular emails to their families while they were in Oxford, while fielding calls from concerned parents with the kindness of an honorary uncle.
When we saw the gleam in his eye on Open Days as students showed their peers and parents what they had learned we readily understood it was the best of all rewards for him.