The Steel Award, named for former head of school Frank Steel, recognizes an alumnus who, over the course of many years, has made unique contributions and shown an outstanding and extraordinary devotion to the school. Last year, it was presented to Chas Landreth.
Charles B. “Chas” Landreth ‘66’s uncle, Burnet Landreth III, graduated from Chestnut Hill Academy in 1918. Chas’ granddaughter, Hartley Landreth, is a member of Springside Chestnut Hill Academy’s Early Childhood Center, Class of 2036. That’s 118 years.
Chas has been part of the CHA/SCH family his entire life. His parents, siblings, cousins, children, nieces, and nephews, and now Hartley have all attended CHA or Springside and now SCH.
As a student, Chas was president of his class, president of the glee club, a writer for the Campus Lantern, photo editor of his class’ Caerulean, and a member of the Players whose most notable role was as Curly in the 1966 production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!.
A talented athlete, he played football and baseball, his first love. In one of those hard-to-believe-but-true coincidences: Chas was a member of the 1966 Inter-Ac championship baseball team, the first CHA baseball championship since the 1929 team on which his father, Charles H “Charlie” Landreth ’29, played.
After graduating from CHA, Chas attended Lea College, now a part of the University of Minnesota, earning an English and business degree in 1970.
After college he returned to Philadelphia, His family was then living in the school’s faculty apartment (Charlie was the school’s business manager), now the home of the school’s development office. He immediately became a part of the CHA Alumni Association’s Executive Board and a part of the committee I chaired to rewrite the Association’s constitution. The new constitution increased the alumni’s role in the school, added a second representative to the school’s board of trustees, and paved the way for the Alumni Association to become the core of the newly established development programs.
After serving as the Association’s executive vice-president, he became its president in 1976, serving until 1978. He loved that time, noting that “When you’re president or just on the [Alumni Association Executive Board] you have the opportunity to get to know a lot of alumni of different ages, not just your own class.”
Chas, like so many of the Landreth clan, has been a loyal supporter of the school for his entire adult life. His twin children - Kirsten SS ’95, Charles CHA ’96 – are both alumni and, as noted, his granddaughter attends the school’s Early Childhood Center.
In the years since his graduation 55 years ago Chas has been involved in many areas of the school’s life. His most recent “official” role was as the CHA alumni member of the head-of-school search that blessed us with Steve Druggan. Chas said that he was impressed with Steve because of “His diverse experience, his ability to raise money, and his familiarity with technology.”
Talking about Chas, Steve said, “One of my first memories of my association with SCH was meeting Chas Landreth as part of the search committee in August of 2015. Chas was, as always, the quintessential SCH ambassador. From that day forward I have been blessed to have Chas as a supporter and counsel. Beyond his wisdom, I also count on his honesty and judgment.”
Two quick stories about Chas’ selection as last year’s Steel Award winner. First, when he was nominated for the award several people asked “Hasn’t he won it already?”
Chas is a man whose humility should surprise no one. While he was thrilled when the varsity football field was named Landreth Field in his father’s honor, he wasn’t quite so impressed when he was selected for this award.
That leads me to the second story – and one that I hope doesn’t reopen any old family wounds. A couple of weeks after Chas’ selection and after he was informed of his honor, I ran into his kids at church. When I casually said how great I thought their father’s award was, they had no idea what I was talking about. Clearly their father hadn’t mentioned it to them.
As that shows, his concern for others and for his school far exceeds his own self-interest.
I’m grateful to have been his colleague at CHA and to being his friend for 50-plus years.
It is with great personal pleasure that I am honored to salute the 2020 Francis P. Steel Jr. ’77 Award winner, Charles B. Landreth ’66.
~ Presented and written by Clark Groome '60.