The Home of American Intellectual Conservatism — First Principles

April 23, 2019

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Remembering Charles H. Hoeflich (1914–2011)

ISI mourns the passing of Charles H. Hoeflich, who died Monday morning at the age of ninety-seven, at his home in Pennsylvania. Charlie, as he was affectionately known, was a founding trustee of the Institute, playing an active and essential role in the organization from its beginning in 1953 right up until the present.

In the days since Charlie’s passing, members of the ISI family have been calling and writing from all over the country. As we mourn his loss and celebrate a long and honorable life, ISI shares these warm remembrances of a great man.

You may also click here and here to read other tributes to Charlie.


Christopher Long, President, ISI

Charlie Hoeflich was ISI’s guardian angel for nearly sixty years. He was a powerful, quiet force, consulted almost daily by ISI’s longtime presidents Vic Milione and Ken Cribb. While others on the board and staff took more vocal roles regarding ISI’s program, Charlie was the guiding force behind ISI’s financial and business concerns. That is not to imply that he was anything other than very engaged in ISI’s program. He carefully read every letter, article, and very likely book that ISI put out. Until recent days he would read the Wall Street Journal and New York Times daily on his Kindle, and he always had nearby a pile of journals such as First Things, articles that friends had sent him, and books that he was reading. He was engaged in ISI and the world of ideas right up until his death.

Charlie was known for his quick wit, dry sense of humor, intelligence, and business acumen. He was perhaps best known for his caring about people, his compassion and friendliness. He was always quick to give encouragement and became a mentor to many with whom he came into contact. He will be long remembered and sorely missed by all who knew him, especially his friends at ISI who are so indebted to his six decades of leadership.


Alfred S. Regnery, Publisher, American Spectator; Chairman, ISI

We will all remember Charles Hoeflich whenever ISI is mentioned. He was the anchor that held ISI in place, and the foundation that gave ISI its stability. He joined the board in the very early days, sometime in the early 1950s, and remembered virtually everything that transpired thereafter, even into and beyond his octogenarian years.

Charlie was a Christian first, a conservative second, and he lived by his deep faith in God and by Christian principles. At the beginning of every board of trustees meeting—I suspect way back into the 1950s—Charlie would offer a prayer which set just the right tone for the business at hand, and which gave us all a positive outlook of what lay ahead.

I recall my father, Henry Regnery, who served on the ISI board from the very beginning, often speaking of Charles Hoeflich in the warmest and most positive terms. And when I finally met Charlie, many years later, there was no question that he was the same man my father had so admired.

We will miss him, and we are thankful for his service.


Edwin Feulner, President, Heritage Foundation; Trustee, ISI

Charles H. Hoeflich was a true conservative in every sense of the word—Patrician in style, correct in manners, and a man of great taste, but always a prudent leader. For the forty years I had the pleasure of knowing and working with Charlie, I never heard him use an inappropriate word or a harsh remonstrance. When we occasionally differed on tactics, such as investment policy, Charles’s underlying prudence would frustrate me intensely. Five years later, I would sit back and reflect—Charlie was right!

Charlie was committed to the war of ideas for the long haul. That’s why everyone involved with him with the Intercollegiate Studies Institute became his friend. Some of us had the extra advantage of calling him our colleague. And, above all and to everyone, he was a mentor.

May he rest in peace.


Richard V. Allen, former National Security Adviser; Trustee, ISI

There will not soon be another like Charlie Hoeflich, our longest full-time adviser, trustee, friend, mentor, enthusiast of “his” ISI, benefactor extraordinaire, and man of good will and good works. We, and the world, are diminished by his passing, but we will never forget the living legend that was Charlie. And while we wish for him to rest in peace, don’t we all know that he already rests in peace, never failing to encourage us to press on with our great tasks?


T. Kenneth Cribb Jr., President Emeritus, ISI

In considering ISI’s long life as a central institution of the American conservative revival, several public figures come immediately to mind: ISI’s first president, William F. Buckley Jr.; or its longtime president E. Victor Milione; or publisher-to-the-movement Henry Regnery; or historian of ideas Russell Kirk. But the sole ISI leader to continue at the center of its governance for the entire span of its fifty-nine-year history was also the least known to the public—consummate financier Charles H. Hoeflich, who preferred to work quietly behind the scenes.

Charlie was part of the “greatest generation” that fought the war against fascism. He returned to his career in banking at war’s end, but also joined “the Remnant” that mounted the intellectual opposition to communism abroad and socialism at home. He was present at the organizational meeting of ISI in 1953 and served continuously thereafter as secretary-treasurer, chairman, or executive committee member until his passing earlier this week.

Charlie was a mentor to so many members of the ISI family. He taught us not just with words but by the example of his towering integrity, his bedrock commitment to the free society, and his quiet but unshakeable faith. Because of his passion for anonymity, you do not see his name on the stately buildings of ISI’s twenty-two-acre campus. ISI’s very existence is his monument.

The Oxford English Dictionary that stands open in ISI’s library defines a steward as someone who takes good care of the interests entrusted him. For fifty-nine years Charles Hoeflich served ISI as steward, taking good care that ISI be adequately led and financed to pursue its critical mission of transmitting to the best of each new generation the best of generations that have gone before.


Wayne H. Valis, President, Valis Associates; Trustee, ISI

In 1967, modestly ensconced across the street from Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, in the historic Public Ledger Building, ISI was headquartered. Then incongruously fashioned the Intercollegiate Society of Individualists, ISI had entrusted its day-to-day bill paying to a rather unconventional bookkeeper-accountant. In reality, the Society’s de facto financial officer was a rather ditzy blonde, who one day, rather in haste, resigned and abruptly departed. A sinking feeling ensued, and it soon was apparent that some business matters were in disarray and there were unfinished tasks to confront.

With ISI chronically cash-strapped in the 1960s, the Society’s president, E. Victor Milione, ceaselessly worked to raise funds. However, his unique fund-raising methods—of noting potential donors’ philosophical inadequacy and historical shortsightedness—often led to less than satisfactory financial results.

After the bookkeeper departure, ISI’s yeoman worker, Brigitte Vogel, stepped in. Her survey revealed a desk, stuffed drawer by drawer, with chaotic masses of unpaid bills and the occasional undeposited check. Vendor dunning notices were in ample supply. Obviously, ISI tottered on the financial brink.

Like his hero George Washington at neighboring Valley Forge, Vic did his best to rally the troops. The staff was gathered, and it was decided that senior management would voluntarily abjure salary for a month. It was a shock to me that, with my $6,500 per annum, with a wife and child to support, I was labeled “senior management.”

In the midst of despair, E. Victor did the very best thing possible. He dialed Charles Hoeflich. At that time heading the Souderton Bank, Charles immediately arrived. Dapper as always, he exuded confidence and calmness. Charles surveyed the scene and requested to spend a few hours alone with the massive papers and Brig. His very demeanor stiffened Vic’s spine, encouraged the staff, and brought order to potential chaos.

Charlie said, “Very well, let’s sort all this out.” And he did. He reported to the staff, “There’s nothing here that we can’t put right.” And put it right he did.

Charlie and the bank rescued ISI. Over a period of months, our accounts were put in order, our systems changed, and programs regularized. Charlie became the treasurer of the Institute, his job on the board of trustees, one that he held for another forty-four years. Charlie worked closely with each of the presidents of ISI, especially with Vic and Ken Cribb, as well as with ISI executive vice president John Lulves, and extending into the Chris Long era. John, and later Ken, had no closer ally and confidant than the squire of Elderberry Farm. Frequently the senior staff was invited to his historic home, where he helped chart out ISI’s mission, To Educate for Liberty.

Charles Hoeflich was ISI’s hero for nearly sixty years. He was our friend, mentor, and philosophical father. His children were the young men and women of ISI, who came to create and populate the conservative movement of America. His loyalty, sage advice, and optimistic attitude—well into his nineties—kept us all motivated. He was a great man and friend, and will be greatly missed.


Jeffrey O. Nelson, Executive Vice President, ISI

It is hard to reduce the life of any man to a few sentences. But it is near impossible to do so when the man in question is as large-souled as Charlie Hoeflich. Charlie was, of course, a legendary Philadelphia banker, but he was a banker who really wanted to become a painter. He was an interpreter of financial statements who much preferred the theological essay. He was a graduate of the Wharton School who stockpiled course hours in Penn’s literature department. He was a man who successfully navigated twentieth-century commercial centers but chose to return to his roots and build a regional banking institution as a gentleman farmer on an early eighteenth-century farmhouse in Bucks County. He was a collector of rare, museum-quality early Americana artifacts who was an even more prolific donor to a wide array of civic, health, religious, and educational charities. His infectious joy and pervasive gratitude attracted so many people to Charlie, and he became in no time a cherished exemplar. He loved life and his friends, his causes and his country, and most of all, he loved his Lord. One could go on . . . but as vast as Charlie’s range and spirit were, they never could match the expansion of his smile.

I feel blessed to have had so many opportunities to walk with Charlie on Elderberry farm, enjoy a meal with him at his Piper Tavern table, talk leisurely with him about books, education, religion, politics, economics, art, literature—all things that inform a humane, civilized life. I have a glass paperweight on my desk that Charlie gave me containing two colorful coral peaks and a large, clear bubble hovering between them. When I look at them I think of Charlie with that ball-like bubble hovering in the middle of and equidistant to those two coral peaks, seeming to suggest the reconciliation of tensions, the balancing of life’s many claims upon us. That was Charlie at his core: wise, serene, joyful, practical, active, prayerful, successful, generous, and balanced. May he rest in peace eternally, and always be remembered and celebrated by those he touched and loved.


Annette Kirk, President, Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal

Charlie and Russell truly appreciated each other. They were on the same wavelength about everything from the importance of ISI’s mission to remind the rising generation of the importance of the liberal arts for the development of civilization to the planting of trees of various types. Russell admired Charlie’s strong ethical sense and was especially grateful for his longtime support of ISI through its financial ups and down. While Russell was on the ISI board of trustees, he always looked forward to spending time talking with Charlie at the Union League Club in Philadelphia. Two men at the Union Club working to renew the Republic!

I will always cherish my last visit to Elderberry Farm and Charlie’s hosting my son-in-law, Jeff Nelson, and me to a meal at the Inn where he had dined ever since he was a child. Charlie was an engaging conversationalist, always eager to learn, and just fun to be around.

Ever supportive of Russell’s work, Charlie sent an annual donation to the Russell Kirk Center. The morning after I heard about Charlie’s passing, in fact, I was surprised to find in the mail Charlie’s annual donation: a check signed by him in his beautiful handwriting and dated November 25. Mailed on the 26th, the donation is a testimony to Charlie’s tending to duty and generosity right up to the end of his life.

A civilized gentleman, Charlie Hoeflich will long be remembered for the kind and generous spirit he displayed to all with whom he came in contact.

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