The Rev. Charles Rice, 60, of Collegeville, a chaplain and assistant professor of religion and philosophy at Ursinus College, died Tuesday, April 25, of heart disease at Phoenixville Hospital.
Starting in 1997, when he became chaplain at Ursinus College, Rev. Rice nourished the spiritual needs of the college community, headed the chaplaincy program, and counseled students, many of whom gave him credit for helping them find a direction in life.
"He was a gadfly in the best sense of the word, always challenging Ursinus to be its best morally, and always challenging students to be their best selves - intellectually rigorous, honest, and kind," said Christian Rice, no relation, a former student who is now on the faculty. "His death leaves a chasm at Ursinus that cannot be filled."
Rev. Rice received the H. Lloyd Jones Jr. Award for Excellence in Mentoring and Advising last year. Among his accomplishments: restoring a Sunday worship program centered on diversity and pluralism, and revitalizing faith groups on campus that had declined. He taught a popular course, African American Religious Experience, which featured a spring break trip to the sites of civil rights and social justice struggles.
He expected students to participate in class discussions. "If you want an easy class, avoid him. If you want a meaningful class, seek him out," wrote one unidentified student on the website www.ratemyprofessors.com.
"Charles Rice was the soul of integrity," English professor Jon Volkmer wrote on the college website. "An equal-opportunity provocateur, he spoke truth to power, whether that power was in Washington, D.C., in Corson Hall on campus, or in the unexamined pronouncements of first-year students."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., Rev. Rice was a graduate of William E. Grady High School. He earned a bachelor's degree in 1979 from the Coast Guard Academy, and completed a master of divinity degree at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School at Crozer Theological Seminary. He did doctoral study at Syracuse University. He was ordained by the National and American Baptist Churches.
Before joining the Ursinus faculty, Rev. Rice was Protestant chaplain and director of the Office of Campus Ministry at Suffolk University in Boston. Earlier, he was associate dean of the faculty at Colgate University in Hamilton, N.Y., and before that, faculty research assistant for the Black Church Studies Program at Colgate-Rochester Divinity School.
A busy civic volunteer, he was on the board of the National Council on Adoptable Children and the National Photo Listing of Children Waiting for Adoption. He worked with 100 Concerned Black Men, and was a trustee of the Wissahickon Charter School in Philadelphia.
He lived in Collegeville with his wife, Tonya Richardson Rice. He was previously married to Telesta Featherstun Rice, and a second wife who declined to release her name for publication. Both survive.
Surviving, in addition to his wife, are his mother, Selena Leneau Rice; children Charles Robeson Rice, Martin Baldwin Rice, William Alonzo Rice, Carrie Elizabeth Rice, and Wynton Eberhard Charles Rice; a granddaughter; and a brother.
Services were Monday, May 1.