For many students, over the course of many years, Rev. Charles Adam '82 — best known as Fr. Chuck — has been the heart and soul of St. Ambrose University, the very embodiment of what it means to be Ambrosian.
In July, Fr. Chuck moves to a new Diocesan assignment as pastor of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in Coralville, Iowa.
Rev. Thom Hennen, a 2000 graduate of St. Ambrose and a member of the Board of Trustees from 2011 to 2015, will become Campus Chaplain.
"Father Chuck has been so much to so many at St. Ambrose for so many years," said Sister Joan Lescinski, CSJ, university president. "We have been blessed to have him as our pastor and our spiritual guide. He has helped us know, in so many ways, God's love and forgiveness. Our prayers and love go with him as he brings his many gifts to his new parish. But he will always be an Ambrosian."
Fr. Chuck's departure will change the campus.
"He is always such a calming and strength-filled presence in anything he does," said Jennifer (Glover) Burman '06. "We see him in the grocery store and he smiles and says, 'Hey, how's it going?' He asks about your family. He just has such a presence about him. It's like talking to your best friend."
'I think if you polled 100 Ambrosians, many of them would talk about Fr. Chuck's laugh - that big laugh that lightens up a room and brings people together.'
Jen and her husband, Andrew Burman '06, met as members of the music ministry team at Christ the King Chapel and are among the literally hundreds of alumni who returned to the chapel to be married by Fr. Chuck. He also baptized their two sons.
"I just felt that his passion for his faith radiated so much that he had to marry us and he had to baptize our boys when the time came," Jen said. "His love for his faith meant so much and we wanted to have that be a part of our lives."
Students throughour the years felt that same passion for his faith, but also gained conviction from Fr. Chuck's honest portrayal of faith's challenges.
"He doesn't pretend that life is easy or that living like Jesus won't be a challenge," said senior Elizabeth Braun, "but by sympathizing with students and sharing his own struggles, Fr. Chuck encourages us to have hope. His enthusiasm for life and optimism brighten everyone's day."
In joy and in sadness, Fr. Chuck was an essential part of the lives of St. Ambrose students, their friends and their families from the moment he assumed the spiritual lead on campus. Actually, since before he assumed that role.
Sheila Deluhery '83, '01 MPTh worked alongside Fr. Chuck in Campus Ministry from 1996, when he first returned to their alma mater, until her retirement in 2014. She recalled that on Easter 2000, months before he was scheduled to replace Rev. Drake Schafer as Director of Campus Ministry, Fr. Chuck received a call regarding the sudden death of a Doctor of Physical Therapy student.
"Chuck had gone home for Easter," Deluhery said. "On Easter Sunday, he drove to Chicago and went to the wake and supported the PT department and their students."
Fr. Chuck also spent the night at a hospital emergency room comforting the friends of a student struck and killed by an automobile near campus in 2010. And he grieved with the family of Caroline Griffin, whose ailing heart gave out during her junior year at SAU in 2015.
"It was hard for him, too," said Dan Griffin '02, Caroline's cousin and one of several from his extended south suburban Chicago family who attended SAU. "He was a friend of Caroline's. She loved his laugh. I think if you polled 100 Ambrosians, many of them would talk about Fr. Chuck's laugh — that big laugh that lightens up a room and brings people together.
"Caroline loved that laugh and that laugh was a great comfort to us, my Aunt Georgia (Caroline's mother) especially. We needed some time for prayer and reflection. But we also needed his laugh and the light he brought. He has a knack. He can be serious when he is doing his sermons but he also can be this funny, just likable guy."
A likable, "regular guy" is actually who Fr. Chuck has always been, according to fellow 1982 St. Ambrose graduate Jim Stangle, who returned to his alma mater as vice president for Advancement five years ago. "After reconnecting with him, it was like picking up where you left off," Stangle said.
Added Micah Kiel, an assistant professor and chair of the Theology Department, "He makes everyone feel welcome. He is inclusive of all faiths and viewpoints. Yet, he is very good at articulating St. Ambrose's identity as a diocesan university. Fr. Chuck is a great supporter of social justice, and helps us to infuse that sense of God's justice and service into all that we do."
Fr. Chuck also has an innate ability to communicate with young people, as a friend, a teacher and a counselor — and particularly from the altar.
"You want to be able to apply what you're hearing in church to your everyday experience in college," noted John Darmody '13. "Fr. Chuck was great at not making church some kind of abstract, ritualistic thing. He made it an open and welcoming place."
Many would say that he helped make the St. Ambrose campus feel much the same way.