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Devoted to UT: Gifted Teacher Leaves Bequest for Professorships

Charles Postelle

By Chandra Harris-McCray

In the rugged arms of the mountainous terrain of Pisgah National Forest, in a small cabin tucked near Webb Creek, the late Charles Postelle found inspiration.

His wooden hiking cane cut through the mugginess of the forest canopy and his boots gave way to the crisp crunch of leaves on trails less traveled.

Charles was on a journey of discovery, which many never have the courage to travel, or at the very least, many never have to face. After contracting hepatitis C in 1990 from a tainted blood transfusion, and later liver cancer, he fought every step of the way.

While never setting aside his love for painting and art, Charles deviated from the by-the-book way of teaching and introduced the classic sounds of Bach and Beethoven between science experiments in his high school chemistry classes. Such moments left an indelible impression on his former students, James Parks and David Puett.

James and David described their high school chemistry teacher as a man of many dimensions, who was always true to himself.

"He had a way of engaging students and co-mingling science lessons with life lessons," says James, associate head and director of undergraduate laboratories for the UT Department of Physics and Astronomy.

Unconventional, but Inspirational
Charles' seemingly unconventional ways refocused David's attention from high school athletics to chemistry, art and literature. Charles was an inspiration who created a foundation for David, which led him to the University of Georgia where he is a Regents professor and former head of the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

Reared in a family of teachers, Charles initially taught biology and chemistry in the public school systems of Birmingham and North Carolina. After attending Princeton for two years, he completed his bachelor's degree in education at UT. After earning a master's degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Charles taught European and American history at Averett University until his retirement in 1984. The Danville, Va., institution honored his service with an honorary doctoral degree in 1999.

In the library entrance of Averett, two of Charles' oil paintings hang. One features the university's former president Dr. Conwell A. Anderson. The other is a portrait of library benefactor Mary B. Blount.

From Tapestry to Geography
His easel never sat empty and his hands quickly exchanged a hiking stick for a paintbrush. His small cabin in the Roseboro area near Linville, N.C., was the source of much inspiration.

Charles was an artist who could just as easily weave philosophical tales about the people of the North Carolina Appalachian Mountains, where he often traveled as a child to visit his grandparents.

Those tales accompanied by hot cups of coffee is how James, in his adulthood, would spend many of his summers. James eventually purchased a cabin not too far from Charles "and I looked forward to pulling up a chair and just listening to him."

Leaving His Mark at UT
Charles always had a hunger for learning. So it came as no surprise that he left a generous bequest for distinguished professorships in nuclear engineering and biochemistry at UT.

Just as he was devoted to the mountains, art and teaching, he was devoted to UT.

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A charitable bequest is one or two sentences in your will or living trust that leave to The University Of Tennessee a specific item, an amount of money, a gift contingent upon certain events or a percentage of your estate.

an individual or organization designated to receive benefits or funds under a will or other contract, such as an insurance policy, trust or retirement plan

"I, [name], of [city, state, ZIP], give, devise and bequeath to The University Of Tennessee [written amount or percentage of the estate or description of property] for its unrestricted use and purpose."

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