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Charron keeps old style

Charron keeps old style

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One day, during his junior year of high school, William Charron
came home and told his father he wanted to be a philosopher. His
father’s response: “There’s no such thing anymore.”

Charron, however, would not be deterred and, following
graduation from Benedictine College, went on to earn his M.A. at
University of Detroit and his Ph.D. from Marquette University in

Not only did Charron know in high school that he wanted to study
philosophy, he also realized that he was interested in teaching.
“In high school I tended to double think the teachers,” said
Charron. What drew him to teaching was a desire to get people
interested in things and communicate ideas clearly.

In 1967, Charron began teaching at Saint Louis University and
has been here ever since. Having taught here for the past 37 years,
Charron is, “Starting to see children of my students from the

In the classroom, Charron has what many would consider a
traditional style of teaching. Admitting that his methods are not
quite Socratic because he already has an idea of the right answer,
Charron nonetheless challenges the students to examine the
philosophers’ writings and does not simply hand them the

“We work with the original text,” said Charron. “We pick out the
perennial problems and then try to have the students find the
philosophers’ view.”

In class, Charron has a deck of cards, each containing a
student’s name, which he uses when posing questions to the class.
This way no one ever knows when they might be called on. Kayla
Schleicher, a former student, said, “Initially it really scared me,
but in the long run it helped a lot because I knew I had to be
prepared daily when I came to class.”

Adding to the sense of a traditional style of teaching and
formal classroom atmosphere, Charron addresses all students with
courtesy titles, like “Mr.,” “Ms.” or “Dr.”–and never by their
first name. “It keeps the relationship professional and the focus
on the subject matter,” said Charron.

“That’s the way in college I was treated. You knew exactly where
you were.”

Teaching, however, is not Charron’s only activity. He has been
the treasurer of The T.S. Elliot Society for the past nine years
and editor of The Modern Schoolman, the oldest Catholic philosophy
journal in the country, for the past 15 years.

In addition, Charron is chair of the Ste. Genevieve Chapter of
the French Heritage Society whose purpose is to financially and
morally support the restoration of French architecture. Charron and
his wife own the Baquette-Ribault (or, “Little Jewel”) House in
Ste. Genevieve, a log home that has no foundation but simply posts
in the ground. The home, thought to have been built in the 1790s,
is the best preserved of the five like it in the world.

To his students, there is no question that he is invaluable as a
professor at SLU.

“The man obviously has a gift. He is the sole reason I became a
philosophy major,” said former student James Grogan.

Perhaps no one can describe Charron’s role here at SLU better
than himself. “I see myself as a communicator of tradition–the
grand Catholic tradition, which is a synthesis of Christianity and
Greek philosophy. I want to bring that to young people, and I think
they have a right to that.”

So, while one may not be able to say if Charron’s father was
right, whether there are any true philosophers left today, students
at SLU know first hand that philosophy itself is very much

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