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Charles family legacy: built by love and honour

Stories

Roger Charles & John Charles, Donors

The scholarship, which will exist in perpetuity, is a much greater symbol than any monument.

Growing up at Hatley Park in the 1950s, John and Mary Charles’ children knew their way around the castle, the cow barns, and secret places on the land at Royal Roads.

The Charles family embraced life at Hatley Park with John at the helm of Canadian Services College Royal Roads as commandant from 1954 to 1957. An accomplished military officer by age 36, John was the youngest captain in the Canadian Naval Service at the time and was known for fairness, caring – and his ability to know all 200 cadets in his charge by name.

Mary approached her role with the practiced eye of someone who could commandeer a family of nine through 25 cross-country moves in 30 years. Originally bound for studies at Oxford University, Mary’s plans were interrupted by the outbreak of war. She earned a degree in geography from the University of Toronto, and then served in the Women’s Royal Canadian Service in operational intelligence. She met John while stationed in her home province of Newfoundland.

John and Mary’s dedication to service, country and education found a perfect home at Royal Roads.

“The fundamental principle our parents adhered to was the importance of education, without question, and they shared a commitment to see the world in the broadest perspective,” Roger says. “For Dad to be Commandant at the military college was ideal, because both of our parents profoundly valued what it was all about.”

The Charles’ connection to Royal Roads now spans over 60 years with the establishment of an endowed scholarship by the Charles’ children. Awarded annually to a student in the School of Humanitarian Studies, the Admiral John Charles and Mary Charles Scholarship extends the Charles’ values of service and peace building.

“International education is an antidote to blind ideologies that drive cultural misunderstanding,” says Roger. “The School of Humanitarian Studies is dedicated to increasing understanding for greater good in the world, and we see Royal Roads as playing an important part in this effort.”

One of only two people to have received honorary degrees both from Royal Roads Military College (1991) and Royal Roads University (2008), John established the Friends of Hatley Park Society and was instrumental in the recognition of Hatley Park as a National Historic Site in 2000. 

“Long before he received his honorary degrees, my father had a personal commitment to the college, by virtue of being commandant, and then as commodore and admiral on the west coast when the military college was under his umbrella,” says Roger. “Without exaggeration, from 1945 to until his death in 2010, he had 55 years of commitment to the institution and he fought for it the whole time.”

Also supported by ex-cadets across the country and members of the community, the scholarship embodies the Charles children’s love and admiration for their parents.

“The scholarship, which will exist in perpetuity, is a much greater symbol than any monument. It articulates what our parents believed in, and what they loved,” says Roger.