Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search results

Fay, Charles Ernest



  • Existence: 1846 -- 1931

Charles Ernest Fay (1846-1931) attended Tufts as a student from 1865-1868 and served as a professor of modern languages for sixty years (1868-1928), as well as the Secretary of the School of Arts and Sciences (1873-1881) and as the Dean of the Graduate School (1912-1923).

Charles Ernest Fay (1846-1931) had a long career with Tufts. He attended Tufts as a student from 1865-1868 and served as a professor of modern languages for sixty years (1868-1928), as well as the Secretary of the School of Arts and Sciences (1873-1881) and as the Dean of the Graduate School (1912-1923).

Charles E. Fay was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts on March 10, 1846. He was the son of Cyrus H. Fay, a Universalist clergyman, and Anne Hyne (Minifie) Fay, a native of England. Upon graduating from high school in Providence, Rhode Island, he began his teaching career in Nashua, New Hampshire. He then took a position as the Master of Middle District Grammar School in Bristol, Rhode Island. Fay decided to attend college in 1864, but spent his first year at Tufts as a private student of Heman A. Dearborn learning Latin in order to meet the ancient language requirement for admission. In 1865 he was admitted to Tufts as a regular student and graduated with honors in 1868.

Upon graduation, Charles E. Fay began his teaching career at Tufts as a Walker Special Instructor of Mathematics. In 1869 he accepted a position as an instructor of modern languages on the terms that he could take a year-long leave of absence in Europe to increase his proficiency in the languages he would be teaching. In Italy, Fay met Mary W. Lincoln, a Boston native, whom he married in 1870. In 1871, Charles E. Fay was promoted to full professor, holding the title of Wade Professor of Modern Languages and teaching undergraduate courses in French, Italian, and German until his retirement in 1928. He was universally respected and liked by students, faculty, and administrators. Fay also served as the Secretary of the Faculty of the College of Letters between 1873 and 1881, and as the Dean of the Graduate School from 1912 to 1924. Throughout his career he was awarded two honorary degrees from Tufts, a Doctorate of Literature (1900) and a Doctorate of Laws (1928).

Fay was also active in a number of local and national professional organizations. He was co-founder of the Modern Language Association of America, secretary of the Southern New England Association of Colleges, a lifelong member of the American Philological Association, and president of the New England Modern Language Association. Fay was also a member of several local clubs, including the Boston Shakespeare Club, the Boston Browning Society, the Round Table of Boston, and the Massachusetts Forestry Association.

Charles E. Fay was an avid mountaineer and alpinist, a pioneer of the Canadian Rockies where he ascended over 18 mountains between 1895 and 1913. He was a member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, a founder of the American Alpine Club, and an editor of their journal, Alpina Americana. In 1920, Fay was sent to Monaco as an American delegate to the International Congress of Alpine Clubs, where he was knighted by Prince Albert.

Charles E. Fay died on January 25th, 1931 at Massachusetts General Hospital from complications of appendicitis. He was survived by his widow, Mary Fay, and three children, including Margaret Fay (Tufts Class of 1904). A bas-relief depicting Fay was installed in Goddard Chapel on Tufts Campus. The college was also presented with a memorial portrait of Charles E. Fay on Alumni Day in 1946.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Charles E. Fay Papers

Call Number: MS162
Scope and Contents: This collection includes correspondence, photographs, and articles documenting the life and career of Charles E. Fay. Included are newspaper clippings and articles from 1879 to 1916 that exhibit Fay's interest and relevance in turn-of-the-century mountaineering and alpinism. The collection also includes photographs from 1868 until Fay's retirement in 1928.Significant topics in this collection include Dr. Fay’s publications on linguistics; his personal life as a Tufts University student, as well...
Dates: 1866 -- 1942