Charles E. 'Buck' Offutt, DeMatha teacher, coach and master of SAT, dies at 79

By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 28, 2010; 7:02 PM

As a longtime English teacher and coach, Charles E. "Buck" Offutt was one of the most beloved figures at DeMatha Catholic High School. He spent more than 50 years at the Hyattsville boys' school, teaching Shakespeare, 19th-century poetry and the finer points of blocking on the offensive line.

Dr. Offutt was nationally known for his ability to tutor students planning to take the SAT college admission exam and was credited with helping many of DeMatha's athletes and other students gain entrance to top colleges.

He was 79 when he died Oct. 25 at Holy Cross nursing and rehabilitation center in Burtonsville of complications from recent strokes.

Dr. Offutt joined the faculty in 1955, when the small Trinitarian school had little distinction in sports or academics. Along with longtime principal John Moylan and basketball coach Morgan Wootten, he is considered one of the three pillars of the modern DeMatha, which sends 98 percent of its graduates to college.

"DeMatha would not be what it is today without Buck Offutt," Wootten said Wednesday.

As baseball coach for almost 20 years, Dr. Offutt led the DeMatha team to three Catholic league championships - and taught the school's current principal, Daniel McMahon, how to throw a curveball when he was a student at the school.

Dr. Offutt also spent 50 years as an assistant football coach, working with the offensive line and helping devise the team's game plans. He had played semipro football as a compact 5-foot-9, 180-pound guard and later molded dozens of hulking young linemen into college and professional players.

In the classroom, Dr. Offutt was known for his demanding courses in composition and English literature, in which students analyzed "Hamlet" and "Macbeth" and studied the poetry of Robert Browning and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

"Assigning us to read challenging pieces of literature, Dr. Offutt pushed us to penetrate their metaphors and unravel their allusions, to understand symbolic language and consider deeper meanings," McMahon, a 1976 DeMatha graduate, wrote in an essay for The Washington Post in 2005.

Former students said Dr. Offutt prowled his classroom and sometimes sat perched atop his desk. He used humor, provocative questions and references to rock-and-roll to demonstrate how literary classics reverberated in the modern world.

"Being in class with Dr. Offutt is like confronting a force of nature - exciting, dangerous, awe-inspiring," McMahon wrote.

Dr. Offutt's style of teaching was so admired that colleagues often sat in the back of the room to watch. Among them was Wootten, who taught world history while building DeMatha into a basketball dynasty.

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