Charles Stansifer 1930 – 2016
Charles Stansifer and Mary Miller
Charlie Stansifer was a native Kansan with an international perspective and a love for Paraguay. Charlie was born in western Kansas and obtained a bachelors degree from Wichita State University before becoming an expert in the history of Central America. He spent most of this academic career in multiple positions at the University of Kansas.
It is difficult to describe Charlie’s immense impact on Kansas Paraguay Partners (KPP). One measure that Charlie might use is that he is mentioned 55 times in the index of Merrill and Boots Raber’s 40-Year History of Kansas-Paraguay Partners.
One of Charlie’s signature achievements was obtaining Kansas Board of Regents and legislative agreement that a limited number of Paraguayan students could attend Kansas universities as in-state students. As a result more than 1,000 Paraguayans have studied in Kansas. Many obtaining degrees and returning to Paraguay to enhance the development of their country.
Charlie started working on the university exchange in 1976 and the agreement was signed shortly thereafter. The Raber history reports that in 1985 there were only 15 Paraguayan students studying in Kansas. Their was a dramatic increase in the 1990s to over 100 students per year. Today the program has expanded to Washburn University and Johnson County Community College and several universities have increased the number of Paraguayan students that they would accept.
Charlie always say Kansas Paraguay Partners as a two way exchange and he worked tirelessly to encourage Kansas students to study in Paraguay. This was a difficult task that bore little fruit. In 2005 he pledged $5000 to support a scholarship fund to support Kansas students to study in Paraguay as well as Paraguayans to study in Kansas. KPP undertook to endow a fund to support Charlie’s vision. Just 10 years later the fund was sufficient to support two $1,500 scholarships each year. One for a Kansas student and one for a Paraguayan.
Charlie did not limit his KPP involvement to educational exchanges. In 1977 our counterpart Comitè Paraguay Kansas was concerned that while several Paraguayan artist had visited Kansas, no Kansas artists had visited Paraguay. Charlie met with staff of the Centro Cultural Paraguayo-Americano in Asuncion to promote and co-sponsor Kansas artists to visit Paraguay. Since then artistic exchanges have been a nearly annual part of the Kansas-Paraguay partnership.
Similarly in 1985 Charlie accompanied Phil Humphrey who was an ornithologist and director of the University of Kansas Natural History Museum to the Paraguayan Chaco. They identified 80 species of birds.
Since history was Charlie’s life he also turned this passion to the stories of KPP and Paraguay. Since KPP is an all volunteer organization with no physical office, it would be easy to loose track of its many accomplishments. Charlie arranged for the Kansas State Historical Society to be the depository for the KPP archives. The archives are available to anyone interested in the history of this great partnership.
Similarly in 1990 visited Paraguay and evaluated the history curriculum at the two major universities as well as the resources of the Paraguay Archives. He found the resources available for historical research to be lacking. Charlie had several important documents regarding Paraguayan history in his extensive personal library. He donated these to the University of Kansas Library to be available to all scholars. They were also copied and provided to Paraguayan scholars.
Finally, Charlie along with Merrill Raber and Alberto Granada of Paraguay arranged a tour of Paraguay and tour of Peru, Paraguay and Chili. Charlie’s history lectures were an essential part of participants understanding of the places visited.