Tribute to Charlie Whitehead
by Auysha Muhayya

Tribute to Charlie Whitehead

Paseábase el rey moro - por la ciudad de Granada
desde la puerta de Elvira - hasta la de Vivarrambla.
-¡Ay de mi Alhama!-

In anticipation of the loss of Charlie Whitehead as he prepared for retirement, I thought of those opening lines of the late 15th century romance,* in which the Moors lament the loss of one of their most beautiful cities, near the conclusion of the Reconquista by the Catholic Monarchs. Charlie has been a long-time mentor to me, having interviewed me by phone in 2000 and welcoming me with tremendous support when I started my Sidwell career. An ironic inverse of Spain's fate, it is now I, a Muslim vassal, who bids farewell to her Christian señor. I shared my humble attempt at poetry with students and colleagues in our US Closing Assembly in June:

At this fine school of Sidwell Friends/ thirty three years has Charlie stayed,

Maná, Borges, García Márquez / All his students true fans he's made

- ¡Ay, de nuestro Don Carlos!

With subjunctives, present perfect/ Yes, passive voice he'd often say

Weaving in rhymes and metaphors / All his students experts became

- ¡Ay, de nuestro Don Carlos!

Try SYA or Amigos/ Go LAS, Sergio, José

Gala Theatre, Esmitsonio / Growing minds near and far away

- ¡Ay, de nuestro Don Carlos!

Teacher, Advisor, uncommon friend/ Wise baseball coach of JV games

Telling good jokes and funny tales/ With smiles he's left us all each day

- ¡Ay, de nuestro Don Carlos!

With moistened eyes and heavy hearts/ we must now bid farewell today

He'll see Chile, play more hockey/ [Senior] Olympic Champ? ¡Ojalá!, we say

- ¡Ay, de nuestro Don Carlos!

[*romance: 4 octosyllabic verses, followed by a hexasyllabic refrain (estribillo); assonance is found in the even verses]

Charlie Whitehead, formally known as "Don Carlos" to his students, concluded his 30+ year teaching career at Sidwell Friends School. Charlie earned the respected title "Don" for his wisdom and his masterful work in the classroom. In his classrooms, Charlie took students on rich journeys through Spanish literature; from sonnets to socialist cries, Charlie's students grew to appreciate both the beauty and power of writing. As School Year Abroad Coordinator as well as faculty liaison to Amigos de las Américas, Charlie inspired countless students to embrace global travel and international community service. Charlie often shared profound insights at Meeting for Worship as well as Faculty Meetings for Business, offering stories to raise sensitivity, calming words in moments of tension, and creative ideas to plot the next successful venture. Whether on the baseball and (a while before) on the softball fields, or in the hallways, Charlie always filled his exchanges with jokes to keep the moment light. He inspired generations of students who often return with memorable moments in his classes.

Charlie, we hope to continue your legacy as a humorous teacher, a literary authority, a kind colleague, and a deeply invested advisor. We wish you and your ice hockey team the best of luck on the Senior Olympics and look forward to hearing about your adventurous travels to Chile, and beyond, during your retirement.