Charles “Charlie” Field, an attorney, judge, and community leader who was among UC Riverside’s first graduates, died Oct. 29. He was 85 years old.
Field was born in San Francisco and spent several years on the East Coast before his family returned to California and settled in Los Angeles. He graduated from University High School in west L.A. and joined UC Riverside in 1954, seeking out the liberal arts curriculum on a small campus setting offered at the newly established university. Field received a bachelor’s of arts degree from UCR in 1958 followed by a law degree from UCLA in 1963.
From 1963 to 1990, Field practiced law with the Riverside firm Best, Best & Krieger, where he specialized in labor and employment law and advanced to become a managing partner. He applied in the late 1980s for a judgeship, and, in 1990, was appointed to the Riverside Superior Court, serving first in Juvenile Court and then in the Civil Division. He retired in 2004, although he continued his legal work as a private mediator.
Despite the demands of his 40-plus-year legal career, civic engagement was a priority for Field. He served on numerous non-profit committees and boards, including the California State Bar, Riverside County Law Library, The Press Enterprise, and Mission Inn Foundation, among others. His passion for the arts was demonstrated by his service to the Riverside Arts Foundation and Riverside Philharmonic.
In 2006, Field was elected director of the Western Municipal Water District, a position he held for seven years, bringing “a depth of experience and knowledge to bear on the challenges of providing reliable water to our region,” John Rossi, WMWD’s general manager said in a 2014 Press Enterprise article.
While Field contributed to a plethora of community causes, his most longstanding contributions have been to UCR. Field began giving back to his alma mater in 1964, serving as the alumni representative to the university’s student government, ASUCR. He was a longtime supporter of the Alumni Association, serving as president from 1968-1970 and again from 1976-1977.
He served on the University of California Board of Regents as Regent Designate from 1975-1976 and then as the Alumni Regent from 1976-1977. In 1977, he became the first chairman of the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees and in 1998 he served as president of UCR’s Citizens University Committee, an organization that advocates for UCR within the greater Inland Empire community.
Sue Johnson first knew him as a student at UCR in 1958. In later years, they served for many years together on the UCR Foundation Board of Trustees. She said she remembers Field for his “marvelous, quick, biting wit.”
“If Charlie’s life had not been given to all these remarkable pursuits, he really could have been a stand-up comic,” said Johnson, who served on the UC Board of Regents for 12 years, including as chair. “He brought a sense of fun to everything, meetings and friendships. His public speaking was always a joy; we always searched for him to be the master of ceremonies.”
Financial contributions to UCR from Field and his wife, Virginia, have supported a wide range of campus departments and programs, including UCR’s Living the Promise campaign, Friends of the Botanic Gardens, Western Municipal Water District’s Charles D. Field Endowed Scholarship Fund, the Alumni Association Endowed Scholarship Fund, the College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, the College of Natural & Agricultural Sciences, the Medical School, and others.
Field has been recognized with numerous awards for his volunteerism, including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the mayor of Riverside in 2011 and the Mission Inn Foundation’s Frank Miller Civic Achievement Award in 2012.
Field is survived by his wife, Virginia, a retired UCR administrator, and their five shared children and 11 grandchildren.