Conn College Master Painter Dies

Charles Chi-Jung Chu, master painter, calligrapher, scholar and professor emeritus of Chinese at Connecticut College, died Thursday. He was 90. 

Chu retired from the college in 1984 after 19 years. He was hired in 1965 by Connecticut College President Charles Shain to introduce Mandarin Chinese to the curriculum.

The school subsequently became one of the first undergraduate liberal arts colleges to offer majors in Chinese language and literature. In 1996, Chu was awarded the Connecticut College Medal, the highest honor the college can confer, for his “exhilarating and lasting effect” on life at the school.

Chu was born in a small farming village in Hebei Province, China, in 1918. Nicknamed “little frog,” by his mother for his active nature, Chu completed high school in Beijing and studied at the National Central University in China. He came to the United States in 1945 for graduate studies at the University of California at Berkeley and later at Harvard University.

He taught at Yale University for 15 years before establishing and directing the Chinese program at Connecticut College.

Drew college mascot
A skilled painter and calligrapher, Chu was well known for his sweeping watercolors, detailed exhibitions and demonstrations of calligraphy and brush painting. His whimsical depiction of the Connecticut College campus and famous drawing of the college’s mascot, the camel, have sold hundreds of copies over the years.

After retiring from teaching, he teamed up with Hughes “Toby” Griffis to compile a special collection of East Asian art for the college. Chu traveled to China, New York City and other locations to purchase significant paintings of landscapes, birds, flowers and animals.

In 2001, the college opened the Charles Chu Asian Art Reading Room on the main floor of the Shain Library. The room became the permanent exhibition area for what is now known as the Chu-Griffis collection.

Chu is survived by his wife, Bettie, four children and 11 grandchildren. Calling hours are 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Neilan Funeral Home, 12 Ocean Ave., New London.

Copyright NORBL - Norwich Bulletin
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