Carolyn Soule

12 January 2021
Carolyn Soule

Carolyn Soule ’58, age 84, died on Sunday, January 10 in Northfield. Except for two years from 1970–72, Carolyn was the administrative assistant in the English Department and the editor and manager of The Carleton Miscellany from 1963-2015 — which means she was employed by the college for 50 years.  

Carolyn loved working in the department in which she had majored. She had a deep love of English literature and a high regard for the faculty and student members of her department and other colleagues. And she was much loved in return. Faculty members say that Carolyn was the heart of the department for many years. She was organized, welcoming, knowledgeable, and witty. She led new faculty through the maze of Carleton acronyms, committees, and traditions. Several student workers said she gave them the best education, teaching them how to enjoy work, do it well, and spread cheer to all around you. The Miscellany’s chimney sweep icon (later called “The Imp”) symbolizes well Carolyn’s own “seriousness graced by wit and irony.” And she had the good grace to play along when her face was pasted on “The Imp” at her retirement celebration in 2015.

Carolyn was married to Carleton English Professor George Soule, who died in 2011. An additional obituary is on the Bierman Funeral Home website.

Carolyn’s family invites you to a sharing of remembrances and stories about Carolyn. The Zoom memorial will be on Saturday, February 20th, at 3pm Central Time. Please contact the Chaplain’s office for the link.

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  • 2021-01-12 16:14:45
    Frederick Kettering

    Carolyn was a wonderful neighbor, generous friend, and delightful conversationalist. We already missed her company (having moved from MN). Now, we will miss her more.

    • 2021-01-15 18:57:07
      Kate Soule

      I am Carolyn's daughter, Kate. Thank you to everyone for your loving and thoughtful comments. It is a pleasure to see my mom (and my dad) through your eyes. She loved Carleton and especially the English Department. I can attest, from what she said to me, that the kindness and caring you remember was sincere. She really was a sweet as the lemon drops on her desk. She was very happy on 2nd Laird and it is nice to hear that she also brought so much pleasure to others. Please keep the memories coming. They are important to me.

  • 2021-01-12 16:30:48
    Christopher Tassava

    I worked downstairs from Carolyn in Laird Hall for a decade. She was unfailingly cheery and kind, and known to have an incredible command of college lore and information. She'll be missed.

  • 2021-01-12 16:49:03
    Linda Mueller

    Carolyn was active in SAC, which is where I first met her. She was also the unofficial photographer for all of our events. Her works will live on in the hundreds and hundreds of photos she took over the years. RIP Carolyn.

  • 2021-01-12 19:00:26
    Shavera Seneviratne (‘13)

    I find it impossible to think of my time at Carleton as an English major and not think of Carolyn. She had been there as long as (or even longer) than any faculty member and kept all of us so organized. She had so many delightful stories of her time at Carleton both as a student and working for the English department and she always had time to answer our questions or chat with us. Carolyn embodied everything I loved about our department; a constant twinkle in her eye, a love for books and literature and a desire to see everyone succeed. I am so grateful I got to know her during my time as a student and as a 5th year intern during the 2013-14 academic year. My love and condolences to her family during this time.

  • 2021-01-12 20:19:23
    Tasha Carvell

    I was one of her minions. And I adored her. She and George treated me like family. Some of my fondest memories are of drinking white wine with them in their garden on late spring evenings. She took such great joy in her job, in the people she worked with, and the students. She always had a conspiratorial wink or my favorite delighted greeting when I’d come into the office: “oh it’s you!” Sending my deepest condolences to her daughter (of whom I heard lots of proud updates) and everyone who loved her. I sure did.

  • 2021-01-12 20:45:52
    Ellen Currier

    Carolyn was so warm and welcoming to everyone in the English Department. I was lucky to be one of her minions; it was the best on-campus job a student could have. She was generous with her time and conversation, so it was great to pass hours in Carolyn's company. She always showed interest in my classes and my life, and I loved hearing about her family, her garden, her love of literature and the opera, and her time at Carleton. My condolences to Carolyn's family and friends. She will be greatly missed.

  • 2021-01-12 22:50:31
    Alison Kettering

    Carolyn was our next door neighbor for 30 some years. She was invariably cheerful, full of advice (gardening especially as our backyards adjoined), and an enthusiastic fellow cat lover. She served as a sort of godmother to all our felines. The tea parties she and George hosted on their screened porch are especially memorable. It is hard to think of life in Northfield without Carolyn.

  • 2021-01-13 00:20:09
    Aditya Menon

    I'm glad I got to work with Carolyn. She was lovely and funny.

  • 2021-01-13 09:36:04
    Adriana Estill

    When I arrived in MN, Carolyn was warm and welcoming, helping me find my footing both in this new place and in a new work environment. She commanded great respect in the English department office, managing all of us, our needs and our foibles, with care and good humor. I loved her stories of the English department of yore. I am so grateful I had a chance to get to know her. I will miss her.

  • 2021-01-13 12:22:27
    Matt Borland

    Carolyn was such a wonderful person, an enduring figure in the halls of the English department! Rarely did I pass by the department office without her asking me to fetch some book down from some shelf. :) George was my advisor and the two were a remarkable duo. I remember Carolyn (dearly) chastising George for speaking gruffly toward me after I caused a printing mishap. Lovely people and I miss them both.

  • 2021-01-13 12:51:51
    Anne Fox (nee Marson)

    I was lucky enough to work for Carolyn, and she set the bar for every boss I've had since. And, frankly, for the person I hope to one day be. Carolyn was kind, sharp, humble, opinionated, good-natured, devoted, pragmatic, imaginative, and just an all-around good egg (a compliment I know she would appreciate). From her attendance at Carleton, to her work at Carleton, to her partnership with George... she *was* Carleton to me. I remember falling asleep while "studying" in the English office (which was greeted with a gentle cough behind me), dinners at her house (the secret to a good Bolognese is milk!), and helping her put her garden to bed. I treasure every one of those memories. My heart goes out to her daughter, of whom she was immensely proud, as well as her extended family, friends, neighbors, and the Carleton community who loved her as I did.

  • 2021-01-13 12:55:46
    Doug Warren

    Carolyn was a joy to be around, and a great hostess! She and George welcomed me into their home many times and were particularly gracious during our trip to London in 1974. I'll never forget the favor they did me or Yorkshire pudding in Muswell Hill. A toast to their reunion!

  • 2021-01-13 13:25:13

    I worked in the English Dept. office for three years during my time at Carleton. Carolyn was so delightful to work with. She’s a legend in the department and a testament to a life well lived.

  • 2021-01-13 13:27:41
    Kumari Nelson

    I can’t think of my English major years without thinking of Carolyn. She was a constant presence in Laird and someone I had the privilege of getting to know a little better when I worked on the Second Laird Miscellany. She was a lovely woman and will be missed.

  • 2021-01-13 13:41:41

    Just as others have commented, it's hard to imagine the English department in Laird without the Soules, but particularly without the helpful, guiding, kind hand of Carolyn. She was so much more than the departmental assistant; in fact, because she knew so much and was so forthcoming with her knowledge, I wasn't quite sure what she was for the longest time - professor, secretary, professor's spouse? What she turned out to be was a surrogate mother, who helped me navigate my way to being an English major sometime in my junior year after a very short pre-med stint and the declaration of philosophy at the end of my sophomore year. Perched at the top of the stairs on 2nd Laird, I would always stop in to see her, and without fail, she would greet me with her bright smile and a comment, which seemed to pick up from the last time we were together. By now, most of the giants of the great English department have passed, and I am feeling old and perhaps should contemplate wearing the bottoms of my trousers rolled. So long, Carolyn! I imagine you with your dear George taking toast and tea by a calm, warm sea.

  • 2021-01-13 18:46:19
    Kara Keeling '83

    I remember Carolyn so very fondly. She was always a cheery, bright and warm presence in the English office, especially on cold grey days. I often stopped in just to chat with her--sometimes both she and Barb Jenkins would be in at the same time, which was double the fun. Even after graduation, I often saw her when I climbed up to second Laird during reunions, and she would catch me up on various faculty and on departmental news. I remember telling her in 1993 that I had, just by chance, seen George when he was on Jeopardy a couple of years earlier, and her delight in knowing that another department alum had seen it. My heart goes out to her family on her loss.

  • 2021-01-14 04:14:43
    Ben Mirin

    Carolyn was a light and a welcoming familiar presence every time I entered Laird Hall, whether to attend classes or work on one of the many grants and fellowships I was applying for in my third and fourth years. I greatly appreciated her kindness, she made the building feel like home. My condolences and best wishes go out to her family and loved ones, and I'm sure I share this moment of grief with my fellow literature students.

    • 2021-01-16 15:30:41
      Anne Hardgrove

      I first met Carolyn in the late 1970s, when I became friends with Kate. Carolyn was always happy to have people over, and was an engaged listener and talker. She and George cooked wonderful meals. I learned so much about literature and theatre from them both. As a Carleton I worked for Carolyn in the English Department, and she always created a work environment that was supportive and productive. I loved all her stories. In recent years we spent a wonderful Labor Day weekend with her on Squam Lake in New Hampshire. My last extended time with Carolyn was in the summer of 2019. On a bus to Winona to see MacBeth, I heard a familiar voice in the seat in front of me. With Carolyn, the conversation always picked up again easily from where it left off.

  • 2021-01-17 16:19:51
    Katie Jumbe '04

    I worked a few times as Carolyn's minion over breaks. She gave me an aspiration to end my career as she did, with a life full of laughter, gardening, travel, family that loved her, and a sunlit office where she helped provide a center of gravity for the entire English department. My sincere condolences on her loss.

  • 2021-01-19 15:28:39
    Susan Jaret McKinstry

    Reading people's lovely memories shows that Carolyn was the wonderful character in her beloved British novels set in a small town (by, say, Barbara Pym), whose presence defined the people and the place. Carolyn told great stories, remembered everyone's news, and made life smart and fun: those witty balloons at the Senior Banquet, her excellent photographs, her kindness to compsing students and fretting faculty, her early skill with computers, her chuckle. My children grew up eating Carolyn's lemon drops, and playing with her Lionel train at the holidays with Kate, Zoe, and Taylor. Our family sends our deep condolences.

  • 2021-01-19 17:19:39
    George Shuffelton

    Carolyn Soule was many wonderful things, but I'll remember her best as a conversationalist of the highest order. I loved talking with her and never stopped learning from her. She quoted poems I'd never read or had forgotten, told marvelously funny stories, opined on subjects of every sort, and almost always cheered me up. When Michelle and I first arrived in Northfield, Carolyn and George Soule were generous hosts -- inviting us to dinner and to see plays -- and whenever we spent time with them there was no fear of running out of things to talk about. I can hear her voice still.

  • 2021-01-20 16:18:08
    Linda Clader

    I got to know Carolyn when I was a Carleton student, and then enjoyed her friendship during the time I was on the faculty. During my third year teaching, I rented the Soules' house while they were off in London, so I have always sort of thought of myself as family. Carolyn had a great sense of humor, and was a great welcoming presence from her desk in the English Department. I remember laughing a lot with her. I also remember some good times with Kate, and I send my best wishes to her and prayers for her good health and happiness.

  • 2021-01-25 14:54:53
    Robert K. Brown, '91

    Carolyn is always included whenever I think back on my fondest memories of several years spent in Laird. I was lucky enough to work with her in the office as part of my work-study program, making copies, running errands, typing up any number of Word documents for the English Department. She was a joy to be around. I loved being able to stop by the office whenever I was at Laird, even years later on sporadic returns to campus after graduation, and be welcomed with kindness, warmth, and always enjoyable conversation. Sending my most heartfelt condolences.

  • 2021-01-27 11:06:08
    Tami Little

    Your mother was very special to me as she was to many. For my first 20 years of working at Carleton, she and I had many opportunities to work together. As the administrative assistant for American Studies, ENTS, Linguistics and later Women’s & Gender Studies, we ‘shared’ many faculty. I visited her frequently in her office, enjoyed many SAC and ASAP events with her, co-hosted many Senior Receptions with her in front of Laird, and shared much laughter with her. She is…and will be missed. My sympathies to you.

  • 2021-02-12 10:30:23
    Alex Gibson

    So sad to hear this. Such fond memories of hanging out with her while making photocopies in Laird in 2009-10. Towards the end of each day she's say "ok, time to head home and watch Jeopardy! with my husband!" Such a good person.

  • 2021-02-12 11:01:11
    Melissa Thomas

    Carolyn will be missed by many! I worked for a time in Laird and got to know both Carolyn and George through my work in the Dean of the College Office. Carolyn was a wealth of knowledge about all things Carleton and I relied upon her wisdom to learn the people of Carleton and the many administrative systems. She was a member of Staff at Carleton and I enjoyed the events we organized through that group. Carolyn was an avid photographer and documented may SAC Luncheons and other events always selecting the best photos that showed everyone in their best light. My favorite memory were the Laird Holiday Lunches where Carolyn and George would lead the building occupants in a spirited sing along to great holiday classics in the stairwell of Laird. We sounded "not too bad" with the accoutsics of the stairwell. Carolyn loved to sing Jingle Bells at full volume, especially the little-known verse where Miss Fanny Bright was upsot. I envision Carolyn and George now together singing all these wonderful songs at full volume. Great memories, for sure!

  • 2021-02-12 22:09:59
    Sarah Olson

    I have missed Carolyn so much since graduating from Carleton, and I will keep missing her. Just as Tasha and Ellen said above, I was lucky enough to be one of Carolyn’s minions, and my memories of those hours in that little 2nd Laird office are filled with her warmth and humor. I especially value the Senior year winter break I got to spend working with her in the department while campus was mostly empty. I remember I was shaking in my boots at the prospect of comps, and being able to go spend some time working with her, and seeing her almost every day that winter, kept me grounded when sometimes it felt like I was going to absolutely float away from the pressure I was putting on myself. She really, really helped me. I will miss hearing about her reading of marriage in The Golden Bowl, I will miss the special feeling of adulthood imparted by getting invited over to hers for dinner, but mostly I will appreciate (and try to emulate) the way she made others feel valued and welcomed. Cheers, Carolyn!

  • 2021-02-13 21:43:50
    Neysa (McClanahan) Jensen, '84

    I was one of Carolyn's minions in the English department. I loved working there with her, listening to the hubbub around me as I worked the old mimeograph machine. She and George were both icons in the English Department. Good people. Great memories.

  • 2021-02-15 12:30:13
    Matt Ryan '96

    Carolyn's energy, wit, enthusiasm for new things (managing the English department's website with verve and care, as well as contributing her own fun photos!), and genuine enjoyment at working with others made her a real delight to have as a colleague and client. She is really missed.

  • 2021-02-20 14:09:36
    Jim and Jane McDonnell

    My brother died on December 21. He was a year and a half younger than me. Then on January 12 came the news of Carolyn’s death. It felt as if I had lost an older sister. It hardly seems possible that so much joyfulness, energy, attentiveness, and companionableness could have been so suddenly quenched.
    I knew Carolyn for over 50 years in many roles. She was a dear friend, a wonderful hostess, an invigorating presence in the English office, where she performed her job as executive secretary with extraordinary efficiency and good humor. I came to rely on her most especially in two capacities.
    For a number of years, she was my teaching assistant in “Baby Shakes”, the Spring Term introduction to Shakespeare course that often had an enrollment of 100 students. Her main duty was to read and comment on 50% of the 300 papers that the class produced every term. I would re-read each paper and assign a grade, a task that was made both easy and at times delightful because of the unfailing aptness and intelligence of her comments. In addition, she attended almost every class and, while she very rarely said anything, she provided an invaluable audience; her bright face encouraged and guided my lectures and commented eloquently on highly diverse contributions to discussions.
    The greatest single partnership I had with Carolyn was when I was Chair of the department. The period 1989 to 1992 was noteworthy for the immense amount of hiring that we did. I could not possibly have managed the job without Carolyn. My best guess is that we received at least 2000 applications for 10 positions in those three years (I can vouch for the fact that we got over 400 for the American Literature position alone). I felt swamped. Without Carolyn, I would have been utterly defeated. At every step of the process, she was well-nigh infallible in her handling of the avalanche of work. Keeping track of each application, making sure that follow-up requests for full dossiers were processed in timely fashion; that interviews with the shortlist of MLA appointments were arranged; that the complex schedules of interviews and events for on-campus finalists were in place – all this in the early days of computers before emails and other web assisted forms of communication. Carolyn had her own systems of record keeping and organization. They saved my life and provided joy and collegial fulfillment. As a person she provided warmth, intelligence and utterly reliable friendship. I miss her terribly and can only imagine how desolating her loss must be to her daughter, Katie and granddaughters, all so cherished by Carolyn.
    FROM JANE: I join Jim in adding my voice to recognize Carolyn’s hospitality, unfailing good spirits and extraordinary photography. She had an “eye” and many of her posters for speakers could have appeared in a show for her own.

  • 2021-03-04 12:11:54
    Allie Morgan

    It's hard for me to imagine Laird and the whole Carleton English Department without Carolyn. She was unfailingly kind, supportive, and witty. I valued the chance to work with her in the department office, and she was such an institution -- I loved her stories about former professors and thrilling seniors-vs-the-world softball games. I even wrote a profile about her in my Creative Nonfiction class senior year.

    Recently, I looked back on some emails we exchanged after I graduated. She wrote to me in 2011: “I'm well and happy to be still working for the Department. When George's health wasn't the best, a good friend said, ‘Don't quit your job. You'll appreciate it even more.’ That's been good advice.” She loved being part of it -- and we were all lucky to have her in our lives.

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