15 Most Interesting Seniors: Charles F. "Chas" Gillespie

Wilson Yu

It wouldn’t be difficult to pick out Chas F. Gillespie ’10 from the crowds of flashing sneakers and long legs at a cross-country meet. His distinctive get-up, like a “NBA: Stay in School” baseball cap—discovered in a summer job’s Lost and Found pile—along with his 14:01 minute 5K—3rd best in Harvard history—set him apart from the pack.

Plus, with a distinctively impressive beard that grows icicles (literally) when he runs outside in the sub-20 degree weather, the captain really isn’t easily mistaken with his other cross-country teammates.

However, he says he has at times been confused with one particular cultural icon who redefined the term “cross country” for many Americans.

“I was running back to the locker room and there was a football game, so there were police officers out controlling the crowd,” he recounted. “One of them stopped me and said, ‘Come here, you know who you look like? Wilson? Was it Wilson? You know, the Cast Away?’”

After completing his sophomore year at Harvard, Gillespie embarked on his own Forrest Gump-like trek across America. Instead of packing up his things and boarding a plane to his hometown of Wilmette, Illinois, Gillespie and two friends decided to set off on a two-week, 1,000 mile plus bike trip back home from school. They paced about 90 miles a day through six states on mostly side roads, starting at 6 a.m. every morning and riding until dark with lunch breaks for peanut butter and honey sandwiches.

“It was a lot of small towns, so we would go to the town square with our bikes. People would talk to us and often they would invite us to sleep in their backyard,” Gillespie explained.

He wore a plaid shirt, tie, and biking shorts for a full two weeks. Prior to the trip, he had been growing out his hair for a few months to equal the length of his regular beard. Right before embarking, he cut it into what his teammate Daniel J. Chenoweth ’11 called “the most impressive mullet he’d ever seen… The hair flowing out the back paired with his protruding beard was just ridiculous. It was pretty hard to take him seriously for a while.”

If life is like a box of chocolates, Gillespie’s got a million different flavors.

As part of Harvard’s Arts First Celebration last spring, he performed a show as a one-man band entitled “The Concert for Dogs.” Gillespie, who plays piano and harmonica and sings, says he wears a robe whenever he writes music and that all of his songs are dedicated to Pallas Athena. His songs range from “A song about a dragon under investigation by the FBI for grand arson to a song about being in love with Julie Andrews.”

He performs often in Eliot House, wooing his fans with lyrics like: “Like in a painting, let’s go out to an x-rated picnic.”

While he pokes fun at his “extracurricular world-changing snacktivities” and exciting hobbies by citing them as “witchcraft, telekinesis, and ESP,” in truth, Gillespie is incredibly modest about his accomplishments.

“He has an incredible knowledge about a really diverse set of topics, but he won’t try and impress you with it. A guy with so many gifts and so much knowledge could easily be stuck up or a jerk, but Chas isn’t” says Chenoweth.

Then again, it’s pretty tough to be cocky with a mullet.

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