Charles Alexander Robinson, Jr. (1900-1965), professor of classics, was born in Princeton, New Jersey, on March 30, 1900. His father, Charles A. Robinson, a professor of classics at Princeton, later became principal of Peekskill Military Academy. The younger Robinson, known as Alex, attended the Academy and participated in the summer camp which his father owned in the Adirondacks. He graduated from Princeton in 1922, and earned his master’s degree the next year. While at Princeton, he won a fellowship to the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and the Prix de Rome Fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, where he met Celia Sachs, who was there with her father, Professor Paul Sachs of the Fogg Museum at Harvard, and whom he later married. He returned to Princeton as a John Harding Page Fellow in Classics, and came to Brown as instructor in Greek and Latin in 1928. He became assistant professor the next year, associate professor in 1935, and full professor in 1945. He was a student at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens in 1923, 1924, and 1925, and was appointed to the Management Committee of the School in 1928. In 1934 and 1935 he was Professor of Greek Literature and Archaeology in Athens. He led Brown’s first excavation program in Corinth in 1959.
He was never chairman of the Classics Department, declining because “I would never think of becoming chairman.... My job is to educate the young and get on with it.” In his university biography, after his list of accomplishments, he added, “The thing that matters most in my life is the fact that every Monday afternoon since 1928 Mrs. Robinson and I have been at home for my students.” Over the years many students were drawn to the Robinson home at 12 Keene Street, as were his faculty friends, who, half a dozen times a year met there, calling themselves the Faculty Shop Club, to hold informal discussions on matters pertaining to the University. Robinson was also instrumental in founding another group, the Shop Club, a smaller group of professional people with associations with Brown, which met for lunch, because, as he said, “Getting intelligent people together to talk about worthwhile things is one of the greatest forms of civilization.” Robinson’s publications included Alexander the Great, Ancient History, The Spring of Civilization, Athens in the Age of Pericles, and Hellenic History, which he wrote with G. W. Botsford.
He delighted in taking part in the Latin Carol Service at Christmas time, reading the Last Gospel in Greek. His last appearance in December 1964 was described by W. Chesley Worthington ’23 in the Brown Alumni Monthly: “Though he had lately left his hospital room, his voice had its old booming vibrance, his joy in taking part was as infectious as ever. When Professor Robinson finished, the hall resounded with applause – for the reading, yes, but mostly for the man.” He died of cancer on February 23, 1965 in Providence. His obituary in the Providence Journal had this to say:
“Professor Robinson was a large man, and he moved ponderously on the lecture platform, but during the hour of a lecture the days of an ancient civilization – perhaps the life of the Minoan City of Knossos in 1400 B.C., or the Athens of Pericles or the concourse of ships desperately assembled at Salamis or the young Alexander of Macedon sweeping through the might empire of Persia – these became alive, almost contemporaneous.”