Schrader: Brilliant young prof met tragic end

During the 125th anniversary of the founding of Northern Illinois University, I plan to write occasionally about some lesser-known history around campus. Some I discovered while at NIU and other research was done with the assistance of the NIU Archives and Regional History Center, as well as the Joiner History Room.

Both those sources were a big help in uncovering the history behind the Fred L. Charles Memorial Bench nestled under some pine trees between Swen Parson and Lowden halls. As far as I know, there is no other faculty member so memorialized on campus.

Fred Charles was one of the original faculty chosen by NIU’s first president John Cook when the college opened in 1899. His field of teaching was in nature study and biology. He was the only faculty member in the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society and had graduated from Northwestern University. He distinguished himself in several areas, publishing a book of his poetry, organizing the first campus publication, serving as adviser to the Northern Illinois campus magazine that later became the Northern Star. He was also a standout in athletics. Among the staff, he was captain of the tennis team, filled both pitcher and…

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