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In Memoriam: Charlie Cawley

-submitted by Bill Colosimo


As many of you likely know, for many years the International Collegiate Barbershop Quartet Contest was sponsored by MBNA, then the largest credit card issuing bank in the world. When MBNA was acquired by Bank of America, the latter continued its sponsorship until recent years, specifically as a result of the acquisition agreement. (The Contest is now sponsored by our own HFI.)

But what you likely DON'T know is the genesis of the BHS-MBNA relationship. An extraordinary gentleman, who taught me so much when I worked for him while at Maryland National Bank (MBNA's predecessor), Charlie Cawley, was not only a one-time member of the Society (Cherry Hill, NJ), but an AVID lover and generous advocate of barbershop music at all levels, himself having been a member of the barbershop-style "The Georgetown Chimes," a fraternal-music group through which I came to know Charlie. Under Charlie's leadership as CEO of the then-fledgling MBNA in the 1980's, Charlie and the Society orchestrated the Bank's generous sponsorship of the Contest as a tangible contribution toward the propagation of our beloved art form among young men. Were it not for Charlie's vision and commitment, it is entirely possible that years might have passed before such an enterprise (of the scope we know it today!) could have been initiated and maintained with great success.

Charlie Cawley passed away yesterday at the age of 75.  He built a financial institution, he gave generously and selflessly in so many ways to support his community, and he always treasured quality vocal music. He also trained countless young men and women to be inspired and productive professionals and concerned citizens while in his employ.

Charlie, despite his success as a world-renowned business executive, was also VERY "private" and humble in his support of his chosen causes. In fact, I recall vividly when the CBQC was new, he cancelled high level business meetings to fly in a helicopter to the contest's city, and appeared, anonymously, in the back of the hall to watch at least a portion of what he and the Society had achieved. He didn't introduce himself to anyone or call attention to his appearance. He and I simply nodded to each other, he placed his finger over his lips as if to say "don't tell anyone!," and proceeded to smile through a good portion of the contest before vanishing as secretly as he'd arrived.

We as a Society owe a lot to Charlie and his memory. Please take a moment to honor him by reading his obituary and considering where we'd be today were it not for selfless men and women who do so much to support who we are and the good that we do.