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A gentle man, loving husband, scholar, researcher, writer, editor, dancer, music lover, host, and maker of bad puns; a Renaissance man.
Age 81, He was born in Pittsburgh, PA; Chuck graduated from Bethel Park Senior High in 1959 and Oberlin College in 1963. He earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. Following a postdoc at Penn, Chuck accepted a position in the department of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. He retired in 2012 from UW–Madison as Hilldale Professor of Psychology with emeritus status. He is survived by his wife, Ann Lindsey, and siblings, Liz Snowdon (Claude Epstein), Philadelphia, Rich Snowdon (Oakland, CA), and in-laws, Bruce and Pat Lindsey (Atlanta, GA) and many friends and colleagues.
Dr. Snowdon’s contributions to primatology, social relationships, and behavioral neuroendocrinology received recognition at the highest levels in scientific societies. He designed his animal research to maintain the most humane practices possible, with very large cages and animals kept in family groups. Thanks to his caring lab managers, students, and collaboration with a scientist from the primate lab, behavioral, hormonal and genetic studies could be carried out without touching the animals.
He served as chair of the Psychology Department for four years, director of the Honors Program for the College of Letters and Science, editor of major scientific journals, and oversaw several undergrad student research symposia. As a mentor to UW faculty and students, Chuck mentored over 35 students and postdocs through his psychology lab, many of whom went on to professional careers in science and conservation. Chuck had an impact on the lives of many of those who studied and worked with him. A former grad student wrote “He gave me a view, and then a springboard and then a current to keep me afloat. He showed me how to carry out my own path so that science and passion could come together and I am so grateful for his support and friendship.”
The research in his lab paralleled a continuing long-term field study in Colombia. Graduate student research projects included field research on cotton-top tamarins (Colombia), pygmy marmosets (Ecuador), whales (Argentina), and gorillas (Rwanda), plus many other projects with students studying less exotic animals.
While at Oberlin, Chuck had the opportunity to attend symphony performances by major orchestras and operas and developed a love of classical music. In addition, Chuck sang with the Choral Union under the direction of Robert Fountain. A few years later, Robert and his wife moved to Madison, and formed the Choral Union there, which Chuck joined. He was honored to have a 35-year tenure singing with the Choral Union. Ann and Chuck became season subscribers and donors to the Madison Symphony Orchestra and, soon after, the Madison Opera.
His involvement in music made him a perfect fit for a collaboration of research with music and animals. He’d received a call from a cellist at the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C., who was interested in determining what effect music factors had on animals. The cotton-top tamarins in Chuck’s lab, having never been exposed to “human” music, were ideal subjects for studying the effects of music on their behavioral state. They were indifferent to Mozart; they seemed to prefer Metallica. Tamarins have a much higher vocal pitch and metabolism, so the cellist composed music in the tempi and range that he hoped would create an arousal state as well as music that should be calming. (Warning – both are painful to human ears!) After being exposed to the music, the animals did respond as predicted. The success of the project led to the development of music for cats. An undergrad ran the project, sending students out to homes with cats to play back the music and observe the cat's behavior. The tests proved successful and led to the commercial development of “Music for Cats.” (The project provided research experience for undergraduate students and didn't require funding from UW.)
The word “retirement” didn’t apply to Chuck. In 2013, he accepted a position as an Ombudsman at UW. He continued to write and edit journal articles, mentor graduate students and collaborate with colleagues in writing new scientific papers.
Throughout his life, Chuck Snowdon was a champion of the arts, particularly in the Madison region. In addition to the Madison Symphony and Madison Opera, American Players Theatre was another favorite organization he and Ann attended and supported. Chuck was not content to be “just” a patron and donor; he was a doer, innovator, leader, and an “all-in” type of guy who generously gave his time, resources, knowledge, and passion to things he believed in. He served as President of the Board of the Madison Opera. As a result of Ann’s involvement with the Madison Symphony Orchestra and Madison Symphony Orchestra League, he became an advisor to the Board of the MSOL.
Chuck traveled extensively for a research project in the Amazon area in Peru, and scientific conferences in Europe, South America, and Japan. After Ann and Chuck met, they traveled together to conferences and field sites, and multiple trips to France, Britain, and Scandinavia, eventually visiting all seven continents, the stand-out being a 2020 trip to Antarctica, returning just before the Covid quarantines in March 2020.
In the 1970s, Chuck joined a newly-formed Scottish Country dance group in Madison; he became certified as a dance teacher; in 1991, he met his wife, Ann Lindsey, through the group, and taught and danced until his death. Given his generosity, cheerful personality, and lively mind, Chuck was the ideal host; He and Ann were frequent entertainers and enjoyed offering their lovely home to many traveling musicians and visiting dancers. Everyone looked forward to their after-ball parties, board meetings, poolside potlucks, and house concerts, hoping Chuck, an accomplished cook, would serve another one of his delectable treats.
Chuck was the annual Emcee of Robert Burns’ celebrations, reciting the poetry of Robert Burns in 18th-century Scots-English, and making bad puns. Given their love for anything Scottish, they took multiple trips to Scotland to enjoy and soak up the culture, the food, and on occasion, a “wee dram”.
Chuck will be remembered and greatly missed by Ann, his family, countless friends, colleagues, dancers and musicians. He leaves behind a legacy of caring, and a passion for science, dancing, and music and above all respect, kindness, warmth and generosity.
A gathering to Share Memories of Chuck will be held at a future date.
In lieu of flowers, memorials can be made to:
UW Honors Program Director’s Fund (132546568), which will be renamed the Chuck Snowdon Honors Program Director’s Fund. Please include the Fund number
The Madison Symphony Orchestra
The Madison Opera
American Players Theater.