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In Memory of Charles R. Gamper

Written by Mac Barrett ‘67

     Recently, and quite by accident, I was reminded of Charlie Gamper, a Gilman legend and one of the School’s all-time personalities. For those old enough to remember, Mr. Gamper, affectionately known as “The Duck,” died in 2008 following an unforgettable 38-year career.

     On the morning of March 11, as I approached the Lumen Center on campus, I spotted a solitary duck a few yards from the door. It was a sight unlike any I’ve experienced in my nearly 66-year association with Gilman and inspired me to take the photo below.

In tribute to Mr. Gamper and his wonderful family, what follows is a portion of the eulogy delivered by former Headmaster Reddy Finney ’47 at the Celebration of Life held at the Church of the Redeemer on December 20, 2008.

     “Charlie Gamper served Gilman School with the greatest loyalty and faithfulness. He performed an incredible number of administrative duties, including Administrative Assistant, Assistant Headmaster, Director of Athletics, Dean of Students, Chairman of the Honor Committee and Director of Financial Aid, to name some of his public responsibilities. He was constantly in motion.

He had to be in order to accomplish all that he achieved! He was one of the fairest and most empathetic persons one could ever know, and faculty, staff, and students knew this. As Dean of Students, he had to render many disciplinary decisions, but there was seldom a complaint or any note of resentment. His sense of fairness and his insight and judgment regarding what might be best for his charges were remarkable.

      “When he would go whirling into the Common Room or study hall to obtain help for some project, he never played favorites or exhibited bias. He would simply proclaim in that ‘Gravel Gertie’ i.e. ’Quack Quack’ voice of his, ‘I need four (or whatever number) volunteers, and I need you, you, you and you,’ pointing his finger at the first kids who happened to come into his view, instead of disappointment or resentment at being selected, he generated smiles, laughter and heartfelt affection, and a sense of well-being at being recognized by this beloved person. 

    “Charlie Gamper loved and respected kids, and kids loved and respected him in return. One of his typical expressions, when  he would suddenly approach a kid, was to blurt out, ‘What’s your name?’ Although often taken aback and even startled when they first heard this barking,  rasping voice, especially for the first time, even new students quickly realized that this unusual greeting manifested only genuine affection and caring. Charlie consistently imparted a sense of well-being in the whole community. He will go down in Gilman history as one of the most likable, trusting and refreshing people Gilman School has ever known. He has inspired many treasured stories among literally thousands of alumni over the four decades of his active Gilman career. This has been acknowledged by countless recollections and letters that he and his family have received. He has also been the recipient of numerous stuffed ducks and even gifts of periodic memberships in Ducks Unlimited.”

Thanks for everything, Mr. Gamper. You are gone but not forgotten.