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The Stewards of Alumni Hall: Charlotte and Bill Crittenden

10/27/2023 9:40 am

The Stewards of Alumni Hall: Charlotte and Bill Crittenden


We are deeply saddened to inform you of the passing of Charlotte Crittenden, a prominent member of the CLSC Alumni Association. Charlotte and her husband Bill’s dedication to the CLSC is present through virtually every part of the organization, but we would like to take a moment to reflect on the exemplary sense of service and community they embodied by sharing a few of the lesser known details about these two amazing people.


Many of you know Charlotte from her work on the banner committee, but her connection to fabric didn’t stop at Chautauqua.  In 1963, she enrolled at Cazenovia College. Following her graduation, she pursued her passion for art and fabrics by attending a design school. After graduating, Charlotte ventured to New York City, where she applied her creative expertise to client businesses and established a quaint artistic boutique within her apartment. 


In 1967, Charlotte completed the CLSC program, which happened to be one of the last years where graduation requirements included taking tests and writing essays based on the books that were part of the curriculum. Following her graduation, Charlotte quickly became deeply engaged in the CLSC Alumni Community, immediately becoming a meaningful part of the association. Charlotte and Bill first crossed paths at Chautauqua, later tying the knot in Chautauqua County at Chestnut Hill, just downhill from Chautauqua Institution. 


At the time, Nately Ronsheim and Becky Habenicht were the driving forces behind the preservation and conservation efforts of the banners. Eventually, Becky, after providing training, entrusted Charlotte with the responsibility of caring for the banners.


In collaboration with her husband Bill, who served as VP of Building Maintenance, Becky and Charlotte recognized the need for a dedicated banner room. They joined forces with conservator Gwen Spicer to create a comprehensive guidebook covering various aspects of fabric and banner preservation. This guidebook delved into topics such as temperature and humidity control, specific hanging techniques, the delicate handling of fragile banners, and a specialized vacuuming method that is still used to this day.


Charlotte passionately put her expertise to work by not only repairing but also crafting new banners, with her husband Bill's class of 1975 proudly displayed at the Amphitheater. She played a pivotal role in the development of the banner room, meticulously overseeing every detail, from procuring specialized rack holders to installing glow-in-the-dark signs as a safety measure. Over the years, Charlotte actively guided and educated other people on proper banner care and maintenance, emerging as a leading authority on the subject.


During their summers, Charlotte and Bill gave Docent Tours, allowing them to intimately acquaint themselves with every facet of Alumni Hall. They possessed a keen eye for identifying any necessary repairs or updates. Their responsibility extended to ensuring that the first floor of the building was adorned with appropriate furnishings, and they meticulously oversaw the selection and quality of each item. Whether it was the stitching in a cushion or the lighting in a room, their commitment to the stewardship of Alumni Hall was unwavering.


Charlotte and Bill's dedication extended beyond the building's interior. They were integral members of the team that initiated the brick project, and they also took it upon themselves to secure an additional 60 chairs for the Hall of Philosophy, enhancing the experience for all who visited. Their watchful eye and proactive approach left an indelible mark on the Chautauqua community.


Charlotte is survived by Bill and their sons Webster and Matthew. We conveyed to Bill our desire to celebrate the rich and immersive life he and Charlotte shared, particularly at Chautauqua and we express our gratitude to Bill for taking the time to reminisce and reflect with us. His enduring message was that he wanted people to be aware of the immense enjoyment they derived from their work, and how it led to the formation of numerous cherished friendships along the way.


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