Charlie Perkins was born in 1917 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Haverford School, he received his BA from Harvard in 1941, and MA (1942) and PhD (1946) in psychology from the University of Iowa.
He married Nancy Marsh Phillips, a fellow graduate student, in 1942, shortly before he entered a Civilian Public Service camp for conscientious objectors in Henry, Illinois. He was also briefly in a CPS camp in Idaho. When he was transferred to one in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he helped care for patients in a mental hospital, Nancy went there too and got a job giving intelligence tests to patients. After he was invalided out of the service (for allergies), he taught at Grinnell College in Iowa, and then took a job at Kent State University in Ohio, where the growing family lived for 13 years.
At Kent State, according to university documents, it was Charlie who “set the tone for scholarly activity in the department. He was the first faculty member to offer a regular graduate seminar, and most significantly, was the first to be awarded an extra-mural research grant…He was a model of academic productivity and attracted and published with graduate students, many of whom went on to obtain PhD’s at other institutions. He accumulated an impressive array of publications on animal learning processes based on research conducted in borrowed space from the biology department in McGilvery Hall. Around 1951, Perkins was instrumental in getting the department’s first animal facility (a former paint shop in the basement of Kent Hall). Although opportunities to conduct research were very limited (all faculty carried loads of 11-12 courses per year), Perkins was Kent’s most recognized psychologist of that decade and was promoted to Associate Professor after just one year. Perkins reminisced that the only way he was able to prepare publications was by supporting himself with grant funds during the summer terms. Having established a reputation as an outstandingly productive scholar, Perkins accepted an offer to become department chair at Emory University (in Atlanta) in 1960. He later moved to Kansas State, from which he retired in 1986. His daughter, Nancy Docherty, joined the Kent psychology faculty in 1995.”
Charlie and his family lived in Atlanta for ten years, where they supported and participated in the growing civil rights movement. In 1969 they moved to Manhattan, Kansas, where Charlie taught for the next 15 years. After retirement he continued to teach courses on the psychology of peace and violence at the University for Man. He had also counseled draft resisters during the Vietnam War; he and Nancy were active members of the Manhattan Alliance for Peace and Justice during this time as well. Charlie and Nancy moved to University House in Seattle in 2006, after 35 years in Kansas.
Charlie was a gentle, thoughtful man, lover of woods and streams, and fly fisherman extraordinaire. He considered violence and injustice to be threats to humanity's very existence.
He also thought that problems can be solved. He spent much time, money and energy working for nonviolent solutions to problems. He taught his children to be skeptical and critical thinkers, but never cynical. He was an optimist by nature, loving, generous and fair-minded.
He leaves his wife of 73 years, Nancy, and five children: Emily Berg of Boston; Nancy Docherty of Streetsboro, Ohio; Warren Perkins of Flagstaff, Arizona; Mary Perkins of Seattle; and Sarah Perkins of Springfield, Missouri. Thirteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren also survive him. He is sorely missed.
I was so saddened to see this. What a wonderful human being. The world was a better place with him in it.
Nancy Clark (niece)
His philosophy of life was as consistent as his understanding of psychology. He was a great inspiration.