CBU Mourns the Loss of Dr. Charles MacDonald

To the University community,

It is with sadness I share with you news of the recent passing of Dr. Charles MacDonald, one of the founding fathers of our institution. Our condolences go to his wife, Sharon, his step-children, Carla, Giulia, and Rick, his three grandchildren and to all family members.  Charles began teaching theology in 1964 at Xavier College on the George Street campus of ST FX, known by most Cape Bretoners as “Little X”, where he had been a student in the 1950s. He continued to teach at our institution as we grew into the College of Cape Breton, University College of Cape Breton, and now, Cape Breton University.  He was one of the faculty members who argued assiduously for our own Cape Breton Island institution, separate and distinct from St FX.

Charles completed his PhD at the at the University of Tübingen where he studied under Prelate Joseph Ratzinger, who would later become Pope Benedict in 2005. Dr. MacDonald took many leadership roles at CBU over the years including being Chair of the Humanities Department where he shepherded the development of emergent disciplines such as Religious Studies, Philosophy, Mi’kmaq Studies, Folklore and Music. These subjects developed from single course offerings into whole programs at our institution that are now meeting the needs of our students.  Moreover, Dr. MacDonald directed the development of our unique Bachelor of Arts degree with its core requirements while chairing the committee that shepherded the program through internal and external approval processes. In an interview conducted by his colleague, Dr. Richard Keshen, Charles commented that developing our own Bachelor of Arts degree “was one of the most fulfilling parts of my career at UCCB”. He taught Religious Studies for many years and the core Humanities courses that were a requirement in the degree.  Furthermore, he was known as an exceptional teacher. As one colleague remarked,  “He loved his students and treated them with the greatest respect”. Many of Charles’ former students, many of whom went on to graduate studies, continued to stay in touch over the years commenting on how influential he had been in their lives. Charles recalled meeting a former student in the elevator at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital who said: “I owe a lot to you. My wife is a teacher and I encourage her to model her teaching on yours”.  Just before his retirement in 2000, he was involved in some of our pioneer work in Quality Assurance at CBU, working on a quality assessment of our BA program.

Charles was also a community developer, together with his departed colleague, Dr. Greg MacLeod, in the footsteps of Dr. Myles Tompkins and Dr. Moses Coady of the Antigonish cooperative movement. To that end, Charles spearheaded and led the development of the Cape Breton Farmers Market where he could be found most Saturday mornings discussing important Cape Breton Island and world issues. His Charrick Keltic Farm in Point Edward produced Registered Highland Cattle and free-range beef, eggs that were sold at the Market. Moreover, he was a founder and longstanding member of the Cape Breton Chorale, singing with the group, and working with Sr. Rita Claire, to help make it one of the best-known choral groups in the Atlantic region.

At CBU, we value faculty, like Charles, who add their exceptional expertise to the growth of our university and our community.  In 2014, we initiated the “Charles MacDonald Award for Exceptional Service to the Academy”. This award was open to full-time employees “who have made exceptional contributions in serving the CBU academic community through course and program development or in helping to build the strength and quality of the university as a whole”. We have named two recipients of that award to date and plan to continue to offer this award to CBU employees who share some of the values that Charles manifested in his life. His work within and outside of CBU shows that he has followed our university motto throughout his career, Théid Díchioll Air Thoiseach, Perseverance Will Triumph.  Dr. Charles MacDonald will be sadly missed by colleagues and friends throughout Cape Breton Island.

Please join me in offering our deepest condolences to Charles’ family.

Yours very truly,

David C. Dingwall