Celebrating 50 Years of Service: The Legacy of Dean Charles Friel

Dr. Charles Friel during his time as Dean of the College of Criminal Justice.
Dr. Charles Friel during his time as Dean of the College of Criminal Justice.

Dr. Charles M. Friel took over as Dean and Director from 1986-1991 during one of the worst budget crises in Texas, but he found new and innovative ways to keep the College growing and prospering.

Tapped by Dr. George Beto, who had served as Interim Dean for two years, Dr. Friel had been a member of the diverse faculty at the Institution for Contemporary Corrections and Behavioral Sciences since 1967. He joined Sam Houston State University after working at NASA on the Gemini Program, where he monitored the health of astronauts in space.

Dr. Friel at his desk.
Dr. Friel contemplates budgets at his desk.
While Dean, Dr. Friel spent a lot of time lobbying in Austin for the continuation of a special appropriation for the College – which he received with an increase in funding – as well as building support through the vast network of alumni and friends of the College.

Dr. Friel established the Friends of Criminal Justice and the Criminal Justice Alumni Association, identifying 2,500 alumni from the program. Because of the pride these graduates had in the education they received at SHSU, alumni became resources for students and for funding.

Dean Friel established the CJ Alumni Association at the College.
Dean Friel established the CJ Alumni Association at the College.
As a visual montage of their contributions, Dr. Friel assembled the Friends Wall, a display of calling cards from donors to the College, which still is on display in the hallway near the CJava CafĂ©. Dr. Friel also posted “Wanted” posters across the state, seeking graduates from the College. He amassed a loyal group of supporters to enhance program offerings.

“I think if you have a successful academic program, it changes the lives of the people it touches,” Dr. Friel said. “I think people who graduate from an institution should be very proud of their accomplishment and grateful to the faculty that taught them. We need proud alumni because we love them and because they are a benchmark of our success. It is a wonderful reciprocal relationship between the alumni and the institute and the institution and the alumni.”

Dr. Friel mentored students and alumni.
Dr. Friel mentored students and alumni.
The alumni also provided support in other ways. In addition to mentoring students at the College, they became resources for jobs for graduates coming out of the criminal justice program. “I found that if you help someone get a job, they will help you for years to come,” he said.

Dr. Friel established many endowments and scholarships, providing opportunities for alumni who wanted to give back to the school in honor of colleagues killed in the line of duty. One of the biggest scholarship opportunities came from the 100 Club, which donated a scholarship in honor of its chairman who died shortly after attending a meeting. From that grew a tradition that offered a new student scholarship each time the chair of the organization retired.

Dean Friel established many scholarships and endowments.Dean Friel established many scholarships and endowments.During his tenure, Dr. Friel sought to raise the visibility of the college. He took every opportunity to send stories to local newspapers about students and alumni successes and worked with Sam Houston Press to publish criminal justice books that were relevant to practitioners in the field. One of the books was training court administrators on the responsibilities and duties of the job. Others provided crime statistics from across the state, modeled after the Bureau of Justice Statistics nationwide report.

“We had the knowledge base and good connections to the field,” Dr. Friel said.” We were producing very useful knowledge.”

Dean Friel promoted the criminal justice books published by College faculty.
Dean Friel promoted the criminal justice books published by College faculty.
To make students even more competitive, Dr. Friel established a police academy program on campus where students could get their peace officer license after graduation. That accelerated academy, offered in cooperation with Texas A&M and Montgomery County, provided candidates who were instantly employable.

Dr. Friel also introduced computers to the College and training for faculty and staff to use them. Dr. Friel had received a donation from Apple in the days before computer became popular in the workplace. He also set up books outlining administrative processes to help future Deans understand the responsibilities of the office.

Dr. Friel also was a great supporter of the arts and initiated the idea to add the collection of Texas flags in and around the Courtroom. It is only one of two full replicate sets of the 13 flags of Texas; the other is at the Statehouse in Austin. “Things like that gave visibility to the program,” he said.

Dr. Friel was responsible for the Sundial in front of the building, which honors those killed in the line of duty.
Dr. Friel was responsible for the Sundial in front of the building, which honors those killed in the line of duty.
During his tenure, Dr. Friel said he was guided in his decision-making processes by the people he met. Particularly influential was an eighth grade girl who wanted to be a FBI agent; the second was a former Marine electrician and his wife who resorted to selling firewood because they couldn’t find work. The couple helped guide his financial decisions. “If I couldn’t explain it to this couple, then I wouldn’t do it,” and the young girl served as a constant reminder of people’s passion the criminal justice profession.

“A passion for this field comes to people very early in life,” Dr. Friel explained to the girl’s father. “In this society, when a kid says they want to dedicate their lives to public service, that is an honorable thing. They should go out to school and do what they want to do.”

Member of The Texas State University System