Charles Callanan

Charles Callanan

Charles R. "Chuck" Callanan, a retired educator, volunteer and author who had headed Park School for nearly a decade, died July 6 of pulmonary disease at Sedgewood Commons, an assisted-living facility in Falmouth, Maine.

He was 86.

"I was right out of college when he hired me in 1971 as a physical education teacher," said Carol Kinne, who lives in Mount Washington and is director of diversity and service at Park.

"I was in awe of his wisdom, sense of humor and vision. He had a real clear sense of where Park should go," she said. "And he placed a lot of trust in his employees and was delightful to work with and for."

Mr. Callanan was born and raised in Albany, N.Y., where his father was president and owner of the Callanan Road Improvement Co. and his mother was a homemaker.

After graduating in 1943 from the Albany Academy for Boys, he enlisted in the Navy, where he attained the rank of lieutenant, and served in the Pacific.

After earning a bachelor's degree in 1949 from Princeton University, where he had been captain of the ice hockey team and played varsity lacrosse and football, he was manager of the Nashville Symphony Orchestra for a year.

From 1950 to 1952, he served in the Marine Corps with the 2nd Division at Camp LeJeune, N.C., and in the Mediterranean as a gunnery liaison officer.

Mr. Callanan returned to Albany, where he joined the family business and worked as vice president of operations.

In 1952, he married the former Mary Gamble and settled with his wife in South Bethlehem, N.Y., when they lived until 1966, when they relocated to a home on Melanchton Avenue in Lutherville.

They moved to Maryland to provide educational opportunities for a special needs son, Owen Callanan, a receptive aphasic, and to be near the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, because of its ability to provide care and support for this mental disability.

After earning a master's degree in 1966 in education from the Johns Hopkins University, Mr. Callanan taught English and directed a special educational program that focused on disadvantaged youths at then-Baltimore Junior College and Edmondson High School, where he was also football coach.

In 1967, Mr. Callanan was appointed the sixth headmaster of the Park School in Brooklandville.

While eschewing a career in business and embracing one in education, Mr. Callanan explained his career change in a 1975 interview with The Baltimore Sun: "I guess there's a little bit of the social worker in me."

"I'm interested in making some contribution. That sounds presumptuous, because unless you're awfully, awfully gifted — which I'm not — you can't make a large contribution. I felt that working with youngsters is where I could do best."

"When Chuck came in, we felt there was a positive change in the air. He was a people person and I've never quite known anyone who loved people of all ages and this wasn't a facade," said Jim Howard, who retired from Park in 2010, where he had been a teacher and later an administrator.

"He really loved young people and made it a point to get to know every student from kindergarten through the seniors, and at that time, we had some 540 students," said Mr. Howard, who lives in Mays Chapel. "He called the school the 'Park Family.' He also knew every maintenance and cafeteria worker and their spouses."

Mr. Callanan said in the 1975 interview that one of the school's "primary challenges" was instilling a sense of responsibility and building strong interpersonal relationships "toward yourself and other people," said Mr. Callanan.

Mr. Callanan suggested that school administrators teach one course to "remember what it's all about."

"You have to give everyone the idea that everyone's in this together, because they really are. There's no way they can divorce themselves from this reality," he said.