My most extended contact with Chuck occurred at the end of his life, even though we first met in 1990. My campus had proposed Chuck for an honorary degree at the University of Michigan, and the degree was to be awarded in April 2007 on the Dearborn campus of the University of Michigan. Chuck contacted me a few weeks before the commencement to say that his most recent treatment wasn’t going well and that he wouldn’t be able to travel to Michigan to receive the degree. Fortunately, his health had improved enough for him to travel to Michigan in December 2007. He and I spent a very intensive two days together in Dearborn, talking about methodology, French politics, recent developments in sociology, and a host of other subjects. Chuck was very interested in learning as much as he could about the Arab-American community of Dearborn; and he surprised me by knowing a great deal about the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement in the auto factories in 1968. I will always remember sitting in the bar of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Dearborn, with Chuck passionately explaining some of the nuances of the struggles of the Vendée.
What made such a lasting impression on me was Chuck’s courage in the face of his declining health, his honesty about his condition, and – through all of that – his persistent passion for ideas and his good humor. The decline of the body would eventually defeat him – but he remained the intelligent, generous, and probing person that he had been throughout his long career.
Chuck’s commencement speech to our students on December 16, 2008, was a tour-de-force. He challenged them intellectually, he made them laugh, and he sincerely expressed his own good expectations of them.
While Chuck was in Dearborn in December, he agreed to participate in an extended interview with me about the evolution of his thought. It is available on YouTube and gives a wonderful snapshot of Chuck’s mind at work.
University of Michigan-Dearborn