Charles Hitchcock, 79, Professor and Activist

July 7, 1939 - Oct. 24, 2018

Charles Hitchcock, an educator, scholar, and activist who lived on the South Fork for 49 years, died on Oct. 24 at Cathedral Village, a retirement community in Philadelphia, of small cell lung cancer. He was 79.

Mr. Hitchcock, who was called Chuck, taught sociology at South­ampton College for 35 years and was dean of the college for five years. He also was chairman of its faculty council and a member of its long-range planning and affirmative action committees, in addition to working on student life and curriculum development. In 1999, he received the David Newtown Teaching Excellence Award.

 Mr. Hitchcock held many leadership positions in East Hampton Town, including chairman of the East Hampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals and the East Hampton Town Democratic Committee. He also was a member of the Springs School Board, the town preservation advisory committee, and a board director of the Retreat, a domestic violence agency.

A pioneer in the gay rights movement, he was a founder of the East End Gay Organization, served on the National Gay Task Force from 1981 to 1983, and ran for Congress in 1984 as the first openly gay candidate. After retiring from Southampton College in 2008, he became active in a group called Peace Action at the United Nations and chaired a conference on disarmament and development in Mexico City. He continued his work for the U.N. after moving to Philadelphia, where he was on its election board.

He was born in Glendale, Calif., on July 7, 1939, growing up there and graduating in 1957 from Glendale High School, where he was active in student government and a ranked junior tennis player.

Starting with a B.A. in 1961 in political science from Colgate University, Mr. Hitchcock then received a master’s degree from New York University in community studies and human relations and a doctorate from Union Graduate School with a dissertation on psychiatric attitudes toward homosexuality. His research helped prompt the American Psychological Association to stop classifying homosexuality as a disease.

 While a student at Colgate in 1960, Mr. Hitchcock participated in Operation Crossroads Africa, joining the Peace Corps after graduating, five months after it was founded, and hoping to return to Africa. Instead, he was posted to Bangladesh, where he lived with a Muslim family, observing Muslim holy days and learning Bengali from the children.

“When he came back from the Peace Corps, he had a plan for what wanted to study, and how he wanted to live,” said H. David Wilt, his husband and partner.

Mr. Wilt and Mr. Hitchcock and nine openly gay men and women founded the East End Gay Organization, which grew to include more than 900 members and raise more than $100,000 for AIDS research. The group started a series of one-act plays written and performed by Edward Albee, Harvey Fierstein, and Tom Kirdahy among others on Friday nights at Southampton College. They were on the Phil Donahue Show in 1980. 

Before earning his M.A. from New York University, Mr. Hitchcock worked for the Y.M.C.A. of Greater New York and in community studies and human relations. As a college professor, he gave students great latitude in choosing how to structure classes, Mr. Wilt said.

Mr. Hitchcock continued playing tennis until his health made it difficult; he had played at Southampton College at the age of 34 against 14-year-old Paul Annacone, who was already a star.

Mr. Wilt survives. On Dec. 3, an informal lunch will be held in his honor at the Springs Community Church at noon. A celebration of his life will take place on Dec. 15 at 2 p.m. at Cathedral Village, 600 Cathedral Road, Philadelphia 19128, with a reception to follow. Those wishing to attend can R.S.V.P. to Mr. Wilt at 215-984-8795. Donations have been suggested for Peace Action at peaceaction.org.