Professor Emerita Charlotte (Lindgren) Winslow, an inspiring literature teacher and champion of the liberal arts who, for nearly 30 years, brought Emerson students “to the well of knowledge,” died Saturday, November 26. She was 98.
“Dr. Charlotte Lindgren will surely live on in the creative spirt she imbued in all her students,” said author, TV writer/producer, and educator Gary Grossman ’70, a former student and colleague of Lindgren’s, and a current Trustee of the College.
“Charlotte brought us to the well of knowledge,” he said. “Whether through Greek mythology, historical fiction, popular literary titles of the day, or science fiction … she found the right books that would open our minds. [S]he maintained that we don’t pick books. Books call out to us…She just pointed us to the right aisles and the right shelves.”
Dr. Lindgren joined Emerson during the 1960-1961 academic year as a faculty member in what was then the English Department. Five years later, she was named chair of the department, a position she held until 1980. In 1967, Emerson awarded her an honorary master of arts degree; she earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree, as well as her doctorate, from Boston University.
She continued to teach literature through the 1980s, as the department morphed into first the Creative Writing and Literature department, and finally, in the mid-1980s, Writing, Literature and Publishing. She retired in 1989.
Dr. Lindgren began her teaching career at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, New Hampshire, and Medfield (Mass.) High School, before returning to BU for her PhD and working as an administrative assistant.
While at Emerson, she became deeply involved in the life of the College, as well as its students, serving as head of Faculty Assembly; the Library Building Committee, among other committees; as advisor to Kappa Gamma Chi sorority; and as a teacher in the Emerson Summer School Abroad, according to Emerson College Archives and her obituary.
Grossman, who himself taught literature at Emerson from 1972-1976, said that before he began teaching one class, Lindgren asked him what he expected to learn from his students.
“It was a remarkable question, because as faculty, she believed we were there to engage more than profess, and take away as much as we gave. What a remarkable gift,” he said.
Interim President Bill Gilligan said he also benefited from Dr. Lindgren’s friendship early in his teaching career.
“As a new, young faculty member in the early ‘80s, I was awed by Professor Lindgren’s presence and reputation, but when I met her, she was so kind and welcoming, and went out of her way to make me feel like I belonged,” Gilligan said. “Having her as a colleague and addressing her as ‘Charlotte’ was always a great honor for me.”
To her students, she was not only a source of inspiration and a brilliant guide on their journey to become critical thinkers, Grossman said. She also believed in her students and celebrated their success, long past her own retirement from academia.
“As I discovered during a phone call with her on her last birthday, she was still interested in how so many people were doing from my class,” he said. “Remarkably, one after another, she remembered their names. That was Charlotte, my mentor, my colleague, my friend, and a true Emersonian for all time.”
One former student Dr. Lindgren kept in touch with over the decades is Emmy Award-winning actor Henry Winkler ’67, who has said his former professor was one of the people who influenced his career.
“Charlotte Lindgren, my English professor, was one of the first teachers in my life who understood me and did not judge my learning challenge,” Winkler, who has been public about his dyslexia, said on a 2011 visit to campus to teach a master class.
In February 2019, 52 years after Winkler graduated from Emerson, Dr. Lindgren came to a Boston-area reading Winkler gave for his children’s book, Here’s Hank: Everybody Is Somebody, to support her former student (and receive a hug).
“Having had such students is one of the joys of being a teacher,” she wrote on Facebook, “especially when you are remembered.”
In addition to her work in the classroom, Dr. Lindgren was the author of several books, including a biography of the novelist Gerald Warner Brace and several books on poet William Barnes, and published many articles and reviews in academic journals. She loved travel, and summered in Dorset, England, for many years with her husband, Boston University Professor Emeritus Donald Winslow, who predeceased her in 2010.
Her commitment to Emerson students will live on for years to come through the Charlotte H. Lindgren Scholarship Fund, an endowed fund which she established in 2018.
In her later years, she served as an Overseer of Lasell College, where her husband served as Trustee.
Emerson President Emerita Jackie Liebergott, who stayed in touch with Lindgren until the end of her life, will remember Dr. Lindgren as an effervescent companion with a razor-sharp mind.
“Charlotte loved literature and life. She taught us all to do the same,” Liebergott said. “At 90, she could do justice to a martini. At 98, she could still discuss Melville and play a lethal game of Scrabble,” Liebergott said. “She had a magnificent run.”
Barbara Rutberg, a former Alumni Board president, director of alumni relations, and interim vice president of development, agreed:
“Her life was blessed with brilliance, love, and a thirst for learning and exploring, which she gave back to her family and friends,” Rutberg said. “If ever we could call a renaissance man a woman, it was Charlotte!”
She leaves her brother, Professor David Treadwell Lindgren, and his wife, Dora, of Washington, D.C.; her daughter-in-law, Eileen Winslow; six nephews; five great-nephews; three great-nieces; and two stepgrandchildren.
In addition to her husband, she was predeceased by her sister, Ruth Stevens, of Wenham, as well as her stepsons, Paul and Sanford Winslow.
A celebration of Dr. Lindgren’s life will be held Saturday, May 6, 2023, 11:00 am, at the First Church in Ipswich, 1 Meetinghouse Green, Ipswich, Mass., with a reception to follow.
At Charlotte’s request, in lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in her memory to the Emerson College Charlotte H. Lindgren Scholarship Fund, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116 or online.
Dr. Lindgren talked about her love of Emerson and its students, and expressed gratitude for her life, in a video created by the college several years ago.
“I loved allowing students to use their creativity; I was always conscious of that creativity,” she said. “Emerson was just right for me. I got exactly what I would most have wanted in life. I got the husband I wanted, I got the school that was perfect for me to teach in, and I made great friends. I have great faith in where Emerson is going.”