Charlie Slagle, in Memoriam

A good friend, Charlie Slagle, passed away suddenly on July  2, and yesterday a memorial celebrating  his extraordinary life was held in Davidson NC.

Charlie was a founding member of the “gonzo golf group” I have had the privilege of playing with in an annual golf trip each summer. We had just been together on the 2019 golf trip two weeks before his death. Charlie was in fantastic shape, which made his sudden death even more of a shock.

Charlie was a legend, a bigger-than-life personality, and made a huge mark everywhere he went, including during his long tenure as men’s soccer coach at Davidson College, where he coached our team all the way to the NCAA-I  final four in 1992. I was in awe of Charlie from the moment I stepped on campus in 1991. He had unbelievable energy, always had a dozen balls in the air, was incredibly and invariably extroverted, and could make friends with an inanimate object. On our golf trips he chatted everyone up – wait staff, the starter on the course, everyone. The conversation was always the same: “so where you from?” Then, “what high school?” And with that meager amount of information, Charlie drew on his extensive recruiting experience and networking across the country, plus his prodigious memory for faces and names, to name someone – a famous athlete, a coach, a principal – from that school, to make a connection with his new acquaintance. There was no such thing as six degrees of separation with Charlie – he could always find a connection with a stranger within 1 or 2 degrees of separation. And he did this with such genuine enthusiasm and interest that it always disarmed the stranger who was about to discover they knew a person in common.

For me, Charlie was the older brother I never had (I’m the oldest in my family), constantly needling me, and setting up golf competitions within a round that I invariably lost. He gleefully mocked whatever I ordered for lunch, so much so that “Cobb salad” is now considered my middle name in the golf group. He never called me by my actual name. I was “the Minkster.” He had either a nickname or a special way of saying everyone’s name in the group. His swing was just terrible, a hunched over, choppy uber slice that left a divot that defied the laws of physics. But his shot always found the fairway, and his scores were always way better than they any right to be. Nobody could scramble like Charlie. The last round I played with him he played one of the best rounds he’d had in years, and I was glad I got to share the moment with him.

When Charlie learned I had ALS this spring, he decided to dedicate a thousand mile walk he was training for to raise money in my name for ALS research.  That gesture meant a lot to me. It was so Charlie Slagle – always a big new project, a big plan, and always looking out for others. I’m sorry he never got to complete that walk, but I’m trying to think of a way to enlist a few hundred friends of his to do a surrogate walk in his name that will total 1,000 miles between all of us.  It won’t be hard to find a few hundred friends of Charlie Slagle.

Rest in peace, Charlie, we lost you way too soon, and we will miss you.




Author: Ken Menkhaus

Professor of Political Science at Davidson College. Specialist on Somalia and the Horn of Africa. Interests include development, statebuilding, informal governance systems, peace and conflict studies, and political Islam. I also teach on philanthropy and the non-profit sector.

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