May 29, 2023

Charles Tate: Material Man

It’s Seersucker Thursday, and a handful of UMW employees showed up for this year’s 10th anniversary celebration on campus. Clad in the super breezy, quintessentially Southern fabric, they braved an afternoon rain with temps hovering around a steamy 90 degrees to pose for pictures inside Monroe Hall.

UMW Director of Transfer Advising Charles Tate

UMW Director of Transfer Advising Charles Tate

In the center of the sea of pinstriped apparel – shirts and ties, jackets and suits – was the man who started it all, Director of Transfer Advising Charles Tate.

From his elegant office on Lee’s second floor, he helps transfer students – each with a unique situation and story – transition to life as an Eagle, and coordinates with the Virginia Community College System. When he’s not advocating for undergrads, Tate is a student himself … of fashion. Well, not really. “I own about 10 pairs of khaki pants,” he said.

Still, the U.S. Senate’s 1996 launch of Seersucker Thursday caught his attention. When he noticed many Mary Washington colleagues favor the fabric, as well, he hatched a plan with former UMW employee Meta Braymer, who oversaw development of the Stafford Campus. Together, they whipped up a whirlwind of camaraderie based on the all-cotton material.

“I think it works at UMW because there’s a sense of community here and a willingness to have fun with something that’s a little offbeat,” Tate said.

He’s worn a variety of hats since his arrival at UMW in 2004, working as a docent at Gari Melchers Home and Studio, a museum guide at the James Monroe Museum, an office manager and assistant dean in Admissions, and a student success coordinator and advisor in Academic Services. Through it all, he’s kept one thing consistent – wearing seersucker to work at least once every July.

“Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it,” Tate tells naysayers and skeptics. “It’s a little bit of an acquired taste.”

Q: What’s most rewarding about your job?
A: Working with students and seeing them succeed. A close second is working with the people in my division. My colleagues and supervisors are caring, student-focused individuals who not only support students but also each other. I have been extraordinarily lucky to work with the people I’ve worked with at UMW. I do not take that for granted.

Q: What’s most challenging?
A: When I find an issue, I’d like to solve it immediately, and in higher education things move at a certain pace because of all the constituencies involved. Being patient and working through issues is my challenge.

Q: Moving to material, is pincord acceptable to wear on Seersucker Thursday?
A: While pincord is not seersucker, in the spirit of the day we accept pincord. Anyone who’s willing to participate is welcome.

Q: There’s a debate on the season for seersucker. What do you think?
A: Traditionally the seersucker season is Memorial through Labor Day. I’m willing to stretch it from Easter through Labor Day, following my friends farther south, but I refuse to wear it after Labor Day. You have to draw the line somewhere!


  1. Louis Martinette says

    Charles is always the gentleman, no matter what he wears!

  2. MJ Bradley says

    Charles, I love seersucker and I am so glad you enjoy wearing. Seersucker is hard to find. We miss you here at Belmont. MJ