The man who was the dean of the Echols program at Virginia, Charles Vandersee, died of a heart attack on January 2. Vandersee, an English professor, was the dean of the Echols program from 1973 to 1997. Under the program, students had considerable academic freedom to pursue their own courses of study—no major requirement and no required courses.
I wish I had known Dean Vandersee better. I confess that at times I was driven to mild mockery by his donnish demeanor, calling him “DJ Chuckie V (In Full Effect).” I was also less than pleased with the Echols program, primarily because its full social and intellectual benefits seemed reserved for students who lived in the program’s main dorm, Watson (I was a spill-over student and lived the next dorm over). But I always respected him for what he represented: the liberal arts, in the best sense of that phrase. The University is a little poorer for his departure.