Rose, Charles - Oral History Interview
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Originally, Charles Rose came to SAIS because he thought he wanted to go into the State Department for which he found he was entirely unsuited, so he never went. He thought he was interested in the State Department because he was interested in history – his major as an undergraduate at Hamilton College. When he was at SAIS, he remembers it having a very run down building on Florida Avenue, in a so-so neighborhood. He recalls the back alley being swarmed with large rats. He recalls the faculty and being trained in French, which he eventually learned to speak and write. The best tutoring he received was from Madam Chabaneau who daughter had a career in journalism in Washington, D.C. The one professor he had at SAIS who he thought was extremely sophisticated was Mario Toscano. The most interesting part of his attending SAIS was his fellow students, some of whom had excellent careers in the Foreign Service. He particularly remembers David Corn who had an interesting career, but who has now retired and has written a couple of books (one on Ethiopia). He remembers having a lot of fun and not ever knowing exactly what he wanted to do then. He particularly remembers the librarian, Frank Shork, who was interesting and who invited him and his friends out to his country home – they all had a good time. He also remembers Dean Thayer who was extremely tolerant of all of Rose’s ‘vagaries’ and he remembers him fondly. He firmly believes in the concept of experience and thinks that it is a curious thing. In hind sight, he believes SAIS was a very good experience because it gave him a lot of time to read, which he always did, and mature. Also, some of his later interests started at SAIS, particularly that of Roman law….and that was because Rose studied international law at SAIS. He did take and pass the written portion of the Foreign Service exam, but never pursued it as a career. He later went to Columbia to work on his PhD, which he did receive, in history, and for a number of years, he taught history. He feels that he really started to learn the most during his experiences in teaching. He first started teaching at a school called Queens College – he taught a contemporary civilization course – and there for four or five years. He then went to teacher’s college where he volunteered doing development work, and then got his first job a year later at Finch College (and has since closed its doors). After that, he went to the New York Studio School, which was fascinating and had wonderful artists who were also teachers. That school’s existence was based entirely on fund raising. Rose later lectured part-time at NYU in their general studies department, while still doing development work for the New York Studio School. By this time, he had done a tremendous amount of reading, so he had a completely different view of history than he had while he was at SAIS. One of his lectures was picked cited as outstanding by one of the deans. Because of this, Rose was almost tenured at NYU, but he never received it as the dean who offered him the tenure died four weeks later. After this dean passed away, Rose realized he needed to find a job that allowed him to earn more of a living. He left the New York Studio School and worked right next door at a school called St. Hilda’s and St. Hugh’s School, doing development work and teaching. He helped this school get their first large grants. He had gone from place to place until he found himself as vice president at a social service agency, where he helped them raise a lot of money. There, he focused heavily on a project related to foster children, who he deemed who in most need of education (his passion). He still does fund raising work for this organization and helps turn up scholarships for these foster children. They have produced several college graduates and even a doctor (a woman who he met on a sidewalk of New York, had no parents and did not even have a warm coat to wear in the dead of winter). Rose recently started a new project to provide tutor / mentoring to children in his neighborhood and he raised $130K from two or three different foundations. He believes that it is not large projects, but the small, targeted projects that help the social infrastructure of our country. Overall, he is mainly interested in taking people off the streets and finding ways to elevate them into the middle class. When asked about what advice he has for current students today, his reply is: “I don’t think advice is worth anything. I think what has to happen is that people have to learn from experience. Advice is not only cheap, but it’s mostly useless. [laugh] Now, it might be very good advice, by the way,…it’s not that. It’s that you really can’t do anything with it because temperamentally, you’re not suited for that advice. It’s interesting….I think I probably work with greater concentration now at 79, than I did when I was a young person….I’m much more focused.” He also mentions having had a wonderful experienced in his year at the Bologna Center, where he met a diverse group of people. In those days, it was in a farming community. He would go out in a local church and enjoy observing the peasant community. He began to see the role of the Catholic Church historically, as the center of any given community (around which all activity happened). He also went to a house that existed on the periphery and remembers there being a dog house behind it – a model of the little villa, Casa de la Cane Lupo (where the local people suggested that a wolf would come out at night) – this began Rose’s interest in myth and all that has come with that from past historical documents. He wishes that everyone, particularly those involved in government, had a deep knowledge of the past (to help in learning from it)…as in time and in evolution, people would have a better understanding of the mentalities they are dealing with. Overall, Rose says that he enjoyed SAIS and believes that today, it offers a great deal to anyone who can benefit from it.