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Charles R. O'Malley

Columbia Scholastic Association Director (1969-1981)

Charles R. O’Malley, businessman, educator and philanthropist, died March 19, 2008, in New York City of natural causes. He was 93. Survivors include fourteen nephews and nieces. He was predeceased by his three brothers and one sister.

Born February 2, 1915, in Perry, Iowa, he was the child of George O’Malley and Nora Garland. “Chuck,” as he was always known by family and friends, graduated from St. Patrick’s School in Perry in 1933, where he had edited the school newspaper. That experience began his lifelong interest in student journalism.

After several years working in Perry as a salesman, he left, first for Boston and then, finally settled in New York City. He began undergraduate studies at Columbia College of Columbia University in 1940, graduating in June 1944 with a B.A. majoring in economics and minoring in business administration. While a student on campus, he worked for the CSPA. He also served as associate business manager of The Columbia Spectator, selling advertising to keep the campus paper in print.

While still a college student, he began work for Pan American World Airways at LaGuardia Field in Flushing, New York as a medical assistant. He was then stationed in the West African republic of Liberia from 1943 to 1944 while serving in the U.S. Naval Reserve. He left Pan American World Airways in January 1945 to work with the West African Division of Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. of New York, holding marketing positions in Dakar, Senegal and Lagos Nigeria for the next two years.

After a bout of ill health which led him to avoid future travel in the tropics, he returned to New York in late 1947 and soon secured employment with the Ward Stevenson Shipping Lines, where he stayed until 1960, rising to senior executive positions. His main specialty was as an oil tanker broker. He often spoke of his interesting work with oil tanker owners such as Aristotle Onassis.

In 1961 he moved into advertising sales with Stone Representatives, a New York City-based national representative for radio stations. Within a year he rose to vice president and general manager.

In 1968 he joined Columbia University to take on the management of the same Columbia Scholastic Press Association he had once worked for as an undergraduate student. The founder of the CSPA, Col. Joseph Murphy, had reached retirement age and the University wanted a capable manager with excellent business skills to take over the organization. O’Malley became the second director of the CSPA in July 1969.

It was a difficult time for the CSPA and for Columbia University, where student demonstrations had not only shaken the campus but also dampened alumni and public support. O’Malley faced an additional set of problems since the high schools served by the CSPA were facing both their own student unrest and also the economic stagflation of the 1970s, which saw prices rise but left incomes stagnant. In 12 years as director, O’Malley steered the CSPA through a difficult but successful transition. He retired in 1981.

During retirement, he kept active with travel, including lengthy stays during the winter with his sister in Las Vegas and a brother in Arizona. He remained interested in the CSPA and Columbia University and was active in alumni affairs as both a volunteer and eventually as a major donor. From 1994-1998, he donated $1 million to Columbia University to endow the Charles R. O’Malley/CSPA Fund to assist the many activities of the CSPA for high school student editors across the country. He was also a frequent donor to the Columbia College Fund and other scholarship funds at Columbia, at Ball State University in Indiana, and the University of South Carolina. He was also a major donor to St. Patrick’s School in Perry, Iowa, a school founded by his mother, and of which he was always a proud graduate.

He also served as one of the honorary co-chairs for The Fund for Tomorrow’s Voices of the Student Press Law Center in Arlington, Virginia, during an endowment campaign that raised more than $2 million from multiple donors. The Center is an advocacy group working with student journalists at schools and colleges throughout the country.

In 2006, the Association presented O'Malley with the Joseph M. Murphy Award for exemplary service to the Association, an award named for his predecessor.

See also: The Charles R. O'Malley Award