When political science professor Dr. Charles E. Neal turns in his students’ final grades this semester, it will mark an end to a 36-year career at McDaniel College. Beginning his career at McDaniel in 1979, Neal would become the college’s first tenured African-American professor. He would set the bar for the future of tenured African-American professors and professors of color.
Born in Chicago and raised primarily in Minneapolis, Neal received his bachelor’s degree in chemistry and political science at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa in 1969. He would go on to Iowa State in 1971, where he would receive his master’s degree in political science. Neal would later receive his doctorate in political science at the University of Minnesota in 1979.
Neal began his teaching career at Gustavus Adolphus College from 1971 to 1973, while working on his master’s dissertation. He later worked a graduate assistant at the University of Minnesota from 1973 to 1978. In 1978, Neal started his career at McDaniel College.
During his time at McDaniel, Neal has served as the head of McDaniel’s (at the time Western Maryland College) Greek Advisors Council from 1990 to 1993; the chair of the Political Science Department from 1991-1996; founder and adviser for McDaniel’s Political Science Honors Society, Pi Sigma Alpha in 1980; and the adviser the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity. Neal states his biggest accomplishments and memories at McDaniel are associated with the, “development of McDaniel’s pre-law program, [his] involvement in the Harvard United Nations and with McDaniel’s Constitution, and the founding and advising of McDaniel’s Political Science Honors Society Pi Sigma Alpha for its first 20 years on the campus.”
The one thing that Neal will miss the most upon retirement is McDaniel students. According to Neal, “The only thing that we do not celebrate enough is the college’s students. We have really great students—it is not to say that they are the brightest students in the universe, but it does say that they are a good package. Our students are educable and are interested in learning, and we sometimes overlook that. And as a package of being good human beings, I do not think you could find a better student body.”
For the future of McDaniel, Neal hopes that things will change for the better. This includes the college’s assembly line approach to education. He stresses how McDaniel is following the national trend of becoming more corporate, which is creating distance between students and faculty. According to Neal, “Distance is growing between faculty and the student body, where students are seen as products in a factory.” He further notes that this “has been an historical approach at big universities but not at small liberal arts colleges.”
While the McDaniel community will miss Neal, his mentee Political Science and International Studies professor, Dr. Anouar Boukhars will miss him the most.
“[Neal] has been a great friend, mentor, and colleague to me in both my professional and personal life. I have a lot of respect for how he cares about students and I give him a lot of credit for that. He has been always invested in their academic and professional lives,” says Boukhars.
According to Boukhars, “[Neal’s] life revolves around his students, which makes him one of the greatest professors.”
While Dr. Neal’s career at McDaniel is ending, he has various post-retirement plans that will keep him busy. He intends to move to Jacksonville, Florida and develop a Constitution Law Textbook with his friends who are also retiring professors. Neal’s presence on the McDaniel campus will be missed, but his contributions to the McDaniel community will live on.