LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas community is mourning Charles Stansifer, professor emeritus of history, who died Feb. 4. He was 85.
Stansifer, a graduate of Garden Plain High School in Kansas, earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wichita State University and his doctorate from Tulane University. He joined the KU faculty in 1963. A specialist in Central America, Stansifer conducted research and held several appointments in the region.
He was the director of the Center for Latin American Studies from 1975-89 and the Department of History chair from 1993 to 1996. He retired in 2004.
His awards included a Provost’s Faculty International Leadership Award in 1999, a Universidad del Pacifico (Asuncion, Paraguay) Award for Service in International University Exchange and a Universidad de Costa Rica Award for Contribution to KU-UCR Relationship, 2000.
Stansifer served for more than 20 years on the board of directors of the Kansas-Paraguay Partnership and negotiated the first university exchange agreements between universities in Paraguay and the state universities of Kansas.
“In the business school we remember him for his early and sustained support for our efforts to internationalize our curriculum,” said Melissa Birch, co-director of the Center for Global Business Studies. “As a Paraguayanist I remember him for his uncanny ability to travel the nonpartisan path with aplomb. As a Kansan, I remember him for the connections he built across the state and across ages and occupations between Kansans and Paraguayans.”
Stansifer is also remembered for his contributions to the Center for Latin American Studies (now the Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies).
“Charlie’s passion for teaching and Latin America provided the foundation for much of the strength in the program today. He deserves our sincere thanks,” said Elizabeth Kuznesof, professor of history.
Stansifer also leaves a legacy through his contributions to KU Libraries.
“Charley played a substantial role in building the Latin American collections in Watson Library, and the Griffith Collection remains one of the best of its kind across the world thanks to his efforts," said Kent Miller, interim co-dean of KU Libraries. “Additionally, Charley was a generous friend and donor. The recently endowed Charles Stansifer Fund for Latin American Literature will continue to support collections at KU Libraries. As his first M.A. student, I can tell you that Charley cared deeply about his students, this library and our university. His counsel was invaluable across many facets of the institution, and his legacy will be felt here for generations to come.”
Stansifer also was the main driving force behind the digitization of Central American Theses & Dissertations Collections, available in KU ScholarWorks.
Friend and colleague Anita Herzfeld, professor emeritus of Latin American and Caribbean studies, noted his commitment to his field as well as “his belief in the capacity of human beings to behave responsibly and creatively, his delight in facing intellectual challenges, his self-assurance that pre-empted all pettiness and his absolute integrity, both as a person and as a scholar and colleague.”
“I join the University of Kansas community in mourning the death of Charles Stansifer, renowned for his research in Latin American studies and work to expand KU’s reputation in the field,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “On behalf of the KU community, I extend my condolences to Professor Stansifer’s family, friends, colleagues and former students.”
A memorial celebration is planned at a later date. The family suggests memorials to the Stansifer Scholarship Fund at the KU Endowment Association for the benefit of students in Central American studies.
Photo: Professor Emeritus Charles Stansifer speaks with guests at a September 2011 donor appreciation reception for his contributions. Photo courtesy KU Libraries.