Longtime faculty member, civic leader Charles Warfield dies at 77

contact: Cheryl Roland
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Charles Warfield.

Dr. Charles Warfield

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Dr. Charles Warfield, a longtime Western Michigan University faculty member and highly respected community and civil rights leader died June 5. He was 77.

Warfield was a faculty member in the College of Education for 41 years, retiring at the close of 2013 as associate professor emeritus of educational leadership, research and technology. Since 2009, he had served as president of the Metropolitan Kalamazoo Branch of the NAACP, taking the reins of that organization during its 100th anniversary year. The chapter's annual Dr. Charles C. Warfield Youth Service Award is named for him.

Charles Warfield

A Kalamazoo native and graduate of University High School, Warfield was a former member of the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Education, serving as president during his tenure on that board. He also was a former member of the Douglass Community Association Board of Directors and one of the community members who helped launch, in 1978, the Northside Ministerial Alliance.

He was first appointed to the WMU faculty in 1972. Immediately prior to that, he was director of school-community relations for the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Warfield earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from WMU and a doctoral degree from the University of Oregon. Before leaving Kalamazoo to pursue his doctoral studies, he was associate director of the Kalamazoo County Community Action Program. He also served as an adult education teacher and a reading specialist at Kalamazoo College.

In Oregon, he served as assistant director and consultant to the Oregon Component State Project. He returned to Kalamazoo in 1969 and joined the Kalamazoo school system.

During his career, Warfield was deeply involved in a number of efforts to increase student persistence and success. In Kalamazoo, he directed a Para School in the early 1970s designed to decrease the number of high school dropouts by working with families and by providing support for at-risk young people. In the late 1970s, he took a two-year leave to work in Chicago as chief of staff and director of operations for PUSH for Excellence, a national high school intervention strategy that was an offshoot of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's PUSH—People United to Save Humanity—initiative.

Survivors include his wife of 56 years, Dr. Martha Warfield, WMU's vice president for diversity and inclusion.


A celebration of Warfield's life is scheduled for the late afternoon and evening of Friday, June 17, in WMU's Miller Auditorium. The event will include a community reflection reception from 4:30 to 6 p.m. in the first- and second-floor lobbies and on the patio.  At 6:30 p.m., the event will move into the auditorium for a program that will include music and remarks by family members, friends and visiting guests.