Skip to main content

Dunn family pursues education and employment at Illinois State

Charles Dunn

Two members of the Dunn family were part of the Illinois State University campus in the ’50s and ’60s.  Charles Dunn was a student and president of the Student Body and his mother, Teresa Dunn, was a janitress who ran the Faculty Coffee Shop in Hovey Hall.  Charles attributes his success to his parents, especially his mother, who both had less than an eighth grade education, but worked hard to allow him to attend Illinois State.

“I am the product of what the world might call little people,” Dunn said.  “I was born and grew up in Bloomington on the far west side, just a block from the railroad yards where my father worked, and across the street from the Booker T. Washington Orphans’ Home.  My parents made me what I am today.”

Dunn currently is the dean of the Regent University Robertson School of Government in Virginia Beach, Va.  He has served on the faculties at Florida State University, University of Illinois and Clemson University, where he also served as department chair, and held senior staff positions in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.  Dunn has written and edited 15 books, including “The Seven Laws of Presidential Leadership,” “The Conservative Tradition in America” and “The Scarlet Thread of Scandal: Morality and the American Presidency.”

The New York Times and The Washington Post have featured his political analysis, and he appeared on “The Today Show,” “ABC Nightly News” and “The O’Reilly Factor.”  Illinois State recognized Dunn with the Alumni Achievement Award and Distinguished Alumni Award and the College of Arts and Sciences inducted him into their Hall of Fame.  He received the Michelin Award for Excellence in Teaching from Clemson University, and the same university now gives The Charles W. Dunn Academic Advising Award.

Two U.S. presidents appointed Dunn to the U.S. J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, where he served as chairman for four terms, traveling and lecturing around the world.  The Fulbright Program is the international educational program designed to “increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries” by providing some 275,000 participants the opportunity to observe other institutions, exchange ideas and collaborate on joint ventures.

Dunn said he remembers those early days at Illinois State, when he received the advice and counsel of President Robert G. Bone, Dean of Men Richard Hulet and many others “who always had an open door.”  He said President Bone used to ask Teresa Dunn to sit and talk with him, and often asked for her advice.  Dunn said his mother was a very wise woman.  He enjoyed his stint as the only sophomore in Illinois State history to win election as president of the Student Body.  While president, he helped with the push to rename Illinois State Normal University to Illinois State University and conducted a statewide marathon which led to the construction of Turner Hall, Horton Field House and other facilities.

“I remember sitting fearfully in classes taught by Helen Cavanaugh and Warren Harden, hoping against hope that they would not call on me as I sat in the far right-hand corner of 316 Schroeder Hall, as far from them as I could get,” Dunn said.  “They were marvelous and demanding professors, whom I greatly respected.  I had to write 16 research papers at Illinois State during four years, something unheard of today, and rarely heard of then.  I wouldn’t trade that for anything.”

All of those papers must have helped as Dunn earned his Ph.D. at Florida State University by the age of 24.  “I learned discipline at Illinois State,” he said.  “You could not do well in classes taught by Drs. Cavanaugh and Harden without discipline.  Education at Illinois State was demanding.  Beginning with my sophomore year and through the Ph.D., I went to school 12 months a year, taking full loads as I went for seven years.”

Dunn returns to campus “every chance I get.”  He was the Homecoming Parade Marshall a few years ago and served on the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“Illinois State has changed in obvious ways, such as physical size, but I am glad that undergraduate education continues to receive high priority,” Dunn said.  “When I attended the University, only 40 students were in my largest class, and I knew all of my professors personally.

Dunn and wife, Carol, have four children and four grandchildren.  Son Joshua, a political science professor at the University of Colorado, is collaborating with his father on a book about American government. Dunn says he has taught Sunday School every year for 50 years, “enabling me to touch the lives of so many different people from small children to senior citizens.”

“I always wanted to return to Bloomington-Normal to live, but that never happened,” Dunn said.  “I left in 1962, but in so many ways, I never left.  I return to campus every chance I get, which is not often, but my mind wanders there literally everyday.  My roots go down deep in the rich black soil of McLean County.  On that soil, the Illinois State University campus is a sacred place for me.  Without Illinois State and University High School, I would not be where I am today.”