Charles Lusthaus (1945-2018)

Founder, Senior Consultant, and Shareholder of Universalia Management Group Ltd.

Charles Lusthaus passed away peacefully in Montreal on July 19, 2018 after a short illness.

Charles will be remembered for his leadership and contributions to the Canadian and international evaluation and development communities over the past four decades. He was an active member of: the Canadian Evaluation Society, the American Evaluation Society and the International Development Evaluation Association. He was also a regular presenter at the International Program for Development Evaluation Training over the past decade where he co-led an Organizational Assessment workshop annually.

In 1980, with a couple of colleagues, Charles created Universalia, a Canadian management consulting firm specialized in program evaluation. They had big dreams for the small company: they wanted it to make a difference and to strive for excellence, aspirations that guide the firm to this day. Charles actively led and supported the growth and evolution of Universalia into a viable, respected and internationally known organization that assists clients in evaluating their international development programs, organizations and networks.

Besides leading hundreds of evaluations over the past 40 years for a broad array of clients, Charles promoted learning and the dissemination of learning, by publishing numerous books and articles on management and evaluation, by making presentations at international conferences, and by delivering workshops in program and organizational evaluation. He was one of the authors of Organizational Assessment: A Framework for Improving Organizational Performance, (IDRC, IDB, 2002), which was the culmination of over 20 years of fieldwork and research on this topic. Charles continued his research activities at Universalia and explored approaches to the evaluation of new organizational forms such as international partnerships and networks up until his death. Charles was also an Associate Professor at the Faculty of Education at McGill University for 33 years.

Charles had a reputation for “speaking truth to power” (sometimes getting the firm into some tricky situations!) and for challenging his colleagues to ask the “right” questions, to contextualize their analysis and to “add value”. He encouraged all of us to continually strive to make the world a better place. Charles thrived on being surrounded by young evaluators, who excelled with his tutelage. He was a valued mentor to many within Universalia and throughout the Canadian and international evaluation communities more generally, evidenced by the hundreds of tributes he received from former and current Universalia staff, clients and peers over the past few months. Charles has very big shoes to fill – we will miss him.


Eulogy by Marie-Hélène Adrian

Eulogy by Peter Paproski


Nada Elhusseiny

I am very sad to hear of this news. Charles was truly a great human being. He was my mentor at McGill, oversaw my thesis, introduced me to Universalia team and continued to be a friend and a colleague at IDRC. I will always remember Charles as someone who cared very much about empowering people and giving them the courage and knowledge to succeed in their careers. He was a genuine person who cared very much about his work and those who crossed his path. He was one of the people whose support i am truly grateful. I feel very fortunate that I met someone like Charles. My deepest condolences to his family.

Steve Montague

I continue to be inspired by Charles work going forward. He was one of the important champions of our practice. I will miss him.

Laura Fishler

I just took a look at Universalia's website and saw this terribly sad news. I met Charles several times while working in the The Rockefeller Foundation's M&E Office, and aside from his work, what stood out most was his very kind, caring, warm nature. He was a very lovely person.

My deepest condolences to Charles' family and friends.


J’ai appris récemment et fortuitement que Charles Lusthaus avait quitté notre monde. Paix à son âme. Belle âme, grande âme. J’ai eu la chance et le grand bonheur de le rencontrer dans les années 90 lorsque Universalia accompagnait l’Association mondiale des Radiodiffuseurs communautaires (AMARC) -que je dirigeais alors- dans un renforcement institutionnel. Charles et Marie-Hélène conduisaient cette mission et, outre le travail auprès de l’AMARC, ils m’ont apporté personnellement des outils qui continuent de me servir au quotidien, dans ma vie professionnelle dans mon pays le Sénégal comme dans les espaces privés. Notamment dans les situations de négociation complexe. Je partage chaque jour que Dieu fait ces apprentissages et outils avec ma famille et mes collègues. C’est la trace de Charles jusque dans ces espaces qu’il ne soupçonnait pas. J’ai eu la bonne inspiration de communiquer avec lui il y a un an pour le remercier. Il avait oublié mais s’en était réjoui et en avait été curieux. Ce dernier échange reste précieux pour moi. Une étoile a brillé pour nombreux au loin. Elle brille pour longtemps. Merci.
Sophie Ly Sow, Dakar, Sénégal

Barry Blackhurst

Charles and I were playing golf a couple of years ago. Just a twosome. On one of the more difficult holes we drive up and park the cart beside my ball. Standing behind my ball and looking at the pin and glancing at Charles I say “Should I use a 4 or a 5 iron”. A few seconds later I hear him say....” That’s not the question. The question is should you lay up or go for it”. Because I was with Charles I went for it. The ball landed on the green a few feet from the hole. He brought out the best in me. I’m heartbroken.

Talene Palvetzian

I am heartbroken to learn of Charles passing on. Charles was my professor at McGill in 2004 and enriched my learning with a formative work experience at Universalia. He has been a role model and friend ever since.
Charles exemplified personal leadership in the many honourable ways he led himself, empowered and developed those around him. His contagious curiosity, compelling questions, and his ability to call things by their true name has inspired life long learning. His tools and comprehensive approaches to improving performance are in a league of their own.
Charles, you have not only envisioned and achieved your greatest dreams but led the way for thousands of us to make a difference in this world. We walk in your light.

Rohinton Medhora

It is with great sadness that I learnt about the passing away of Charles Lusthaus. I first met Charles almost two decades ago, when I worked at the International Development Research Centre. He patiently and thoughtfully helped my colleagues and I navigate through the complexities of assessing the impact of development research, of which we were well aware but whose rigorous evaluation then remained mostly elusive. Charles stood apart not just as a superb practitioner but also a pioneer in evaluation as an area of rigorous study. His seminal work on organizational development and on networks as modes of influence has informed a generation of students and professionals in the field. I last spoke with Charles in late 2017, when I sought him out for advice on a five-yearly evaluation of the think tank I now head, the Centre for International Governance Innovation. In providing his views Charles was deep, modest and generous in equal measure. I listened carefully, as I know countless others did during a fine career and a life well lived.

Lisa O'Reilly

I wish to add my name to the many who are sorry for the loss of Charles. I always enjoyed his ideas and good humour. My greatest condolences to his family and colleagues.

Augusta Molnar

I have long admired Charles and his incredibly insightful understanding of the emergence and growth of institutions that are inclusive and can work as partners to enable many organizations to achieve a shared goal. What contributions he has made to our world! I was so sorry to hear the news.

Wayne MacDonald

I was stunned and greatly saddened to hear the news. Charles and Gary were among the first contractors that I had the privilege to work with at CIDA in the early 80's on international technical cooperation and human resources development. The Always a teacher, my memory of our lively discussions on program evaluation have never been forgotten. I will dearly miss my friend and mentor. Rest in peace Charles. To his family and many friends, my very sincere condolences.

Nanci Lee

I wanted to send you my warmest condolences. I heard that your long-time collaborator Charles Lusthaus passed away recently. I didn't have the pleasure of knowing or working with him but his reputation is wide and deep. I heard from a friend Mary Coyle, former Director of the Coady Institute and now a Senator. She spoke very highly of him. May fond memories comfort you at this time. Warmest regards

Anne Bramble

My condolences to Charles’ family, to you and your colleagues at the office. Charles will be remembered and may he rest in peace.

Roy Culpeper

What terrible news. Please convey our deepest sympathies to the Lusthaus family, and friends and colleagues.

Jean Lowry, CAIDP President on behalf of all Members

Many in our industry will remember Charles for his leadership in the Canadian International Development profession and many more will know him because he taught, inspired and worked with them. His passing is a loss to our whole community. Our condolences to Charles family, friends and many colleagues, and to all at Universalia. Universalia was a founder of CAIDP in 1993.

Michael Miner

Dear Marie-Helene, Hussein, Rob et al: So sorry to have just learned from the CIDA Alumni email about Charles’ passing. He did a great deal for the field and will be missed. I enjoyed having had forward looking conversations with him over the years. It is a loss to all who knew him. Wish I had known earlier since Melinda and I would have come to Montreal to pay our respects. My sincere condolences to his family.

Hany Besada

My deepest condolences to Charles' family. This is indeed a tragic day for Canada's international development efforts. Best wishes from New York.

John Beggs

My colleague Wayne McDonald posted a note on CIDA retirees website re Charles’s passing. Is there a place I can send condolences? I hope you continue to be well. I retired from CIDA at the end of 2003 and am enjoying being away from the stress of the place. In common with many retirees,I do not know where I got the time to go to work!! I still recall the training session you did for NGO division staff on results based management. It remains the most cogent, well organized presentation on the subject I have heard. Global Affairs recently did an assessment of Partnership programming. You can find in the department web site if you have not already seen it. There is a whole new alphabet soup of acronyms around the programs, most of which begin with the letter “k”, presumably for knowledge. The findings are concerns about long approval times, complicated agreements, heavy reporting requirements and crushing systems. Very reminiscent to me of many of the concerns faced by the old NGO division when I left some almost 15 years ago!!. Oh well, at least they begin with “k”. Please take care,

Nipa Banerjee

Very-very sad news indeed. Charles, at Universalia, was one of the best consultants I’ve ever had during my long CIDA career. His critical analytic capability was incomparable. He supported me in my venture to improve the quality of development programming and implementation. I still think of him often.

Glen Fisher

Terribly sorry to hear this. My condolences to Charles’s family.

Adeboye Adeyemo

I just learnt that Charles has passed on. He was an accomplished development practice professional who will be hard to forget. I can't recall meeting him face -to-face, but I had telephone and Skype conversation with him on some projects and could felt his wisdom and experience in our conversations. Well death is inevitable but losing a dear one is still always painful and I think this will be the feeling for all of you who are his colleagues and for me who is associated with you. My prayers and thoughts are with you all and I pray that God will comfort everyone. Please pass my condolences to his wife and children. Regards

Christine Ouellette

I was saddened to hear that Charles had passed away. My heartfelt condolences to you, the Universalia team, and Charles family. In sympathy.

Antoine Ouellet-Drouin

Je tiens à vous offrir mes condoléances pour le décès de Charles à vous et toute la famille UMG. Au plaisir de vous revoir

Nushina Mir

I am so sorry to hear about Charles' passing. I think I spoke with him a few times in the past when we were trying to commission an evaluation of the Think Tank Initiative. Please offer my condolences to his family.

Chris Gerrard

I am very sorry to hear this sad news. I really enjoyed working with Charles on the Nordic Trust Fund evaluation, less than one year ago. Charles, Alex and I conducted a week of interviews at the World Bank last September when Marie-Helene was stranded in Suriname due to Hurricane Irma, was it? Charles seemed very well at the time. My condolences to his family and friends.

Anne-Marie Dawson

I am very sorry to read this sad news. I did not know Charles, only met him very briefly once, but have heard many nice things about him, including that he was a dedicated professional. I send my condolences to all of you who knew him well and had the opportunity to work with him. I’m sure he will be greatly missed. Sincerely.

Tricia Wind

I just scanned email and saw the sad news that Charles passed away. I’m so sorry. In any interaction I had with him, I appreciated his both his intellect and his kindness. Condolences to you and all in the Universalia family.

Jo (Jyotsna) Puri

So sorry to hear this. I knew him by reputation. On behalf of all of us please convey my deep condolences to the family and all of you at Universalia. This is a big loss but I am sure his legacy will stay alive for very long.

Nancy MacPherson

I am devastated and can only imagine how you are all feeling. We have lost a wonderful friend, colleague, mentor and one of the finest human beings I know.

Alex Moiseev

It is a sad day for Universalia, for all of you and likewise for me. Charles was an extremely likable person (in his way) and I learned as much from him about evaluation as anyone I’ve worked with.

Rima Slaibi

Effectivement, on ne peut qu'être attristé par cette nouvelle. Charles était le guru adoré de tous dans la famille Universalia. Il a laissé une trace dans chacun de nous qui nous accompagner pour toujours. Mes condoléances à toute sa famille, et à toi, car je sais que cette nouvelle t'attriste beaucoup aussi.

Eric Abitbol

Thanks for reaching out and sharing this very sad news. You have known Charles a long time, and this must be a terribly difficult time for you, losing a friend, a mentor, a partner. My heartfelt condolences to you, Marie-Hélène. When I joined Universalia, meeting Charles and then working with him, I never thought a day would come when we would be without him, his leadership, insights, charm and wit. He has been an important mentor for me, and I will miss him, as will we all. With deeply shared sympathies.

Ricardo Gomez

My condolences for the loss of Charles. I’ve been thinking of him since my brother Alejo told me he was dying. Remembering my first contact and with him and you, and how I admired his blend of academic, nonprofit and consulting hats. My thoughts and love to you and the UMG team.

Monette Malewski

My heart goes out to all of you and especially the family. I know Charles fought as hard as he could to stay alive. He had a full life full of love, passion and wonderful family and friends. We will all keep such great memories of him. I know he loved and respected you so much and this has to be difficult especially when we lose a mentor, partner and dear friend. My condolences to everyone. Lots of love

Hussein Amery

Please pass my condolences on to his family. know he was a great and long time friend, colleague of yours and his loss will be felt. Please let me know if I can be of any support.

Tessie Tzavaras Catsambas

We were grieved to hear of Charles’ passing. When Charles first visited EnCompass, I was so taken with his story of building Universalia and his philosophy of life and work, --how he prioritized family and relationships, and how he wanted to make a difference. In our work, he brought an open-minded, well-informed and constructive mindset. I am sorry I did not know him more, and am grateful for his contribution to our profession of evaluation, and to responsible business practice. Sincere condolences to the Universalia team—his friends and colleagues.

Jackie Yiptong Avila

I extend my deepest sympathies to you and your team on the loss of your colleague. Charles has without doubt made valuable contributions in the evaluation field. At IPDET, participants were impressed by his presentations which I unfortunately never had a chance to attend. Warmest regards.

Natalie Kishchuk

I was very sad to hear of Charles' passing last week. Please accept my condolences for the loss of a great friend, leader and mentor.

Kaia Ambrose

I was so saddened to hear of Charles' passing. What a great loss. My sincerest condolences to you as well as to his family.

Doug Daniels

So sorry to hear this. He was a positive spirit and so nice to know.

Murray Glow

I wanted to pass on my condolences for the loss of your friend and mentor. I've known Charles for a very long time. We weren't all that close and sometimes years would go by without contact but I had tremendous respect and affection for him. His death has brought on a great sadness as well as something akin to nostalgia for the old days when we were all doing new and often scary things to make the world a better place.

William (Bill) Mitchell

I know how difficult this must be for you. He was a huge part of our lives for a long time. I will be away so won't be able to go to Montreal, but will be thinking about you. Please give sympathies to all. And thanks again for your earlier email. I am so happy that I had the final email exchange with Charles.

Kelly Babcock

Very sorry to hear this, as expected as it was. I'm glad it sounds like he passed away peacefully in the end with a friend by his side. Bit of the end of an era.

Adrian Profitos

I'm sorry to receive these sad news from afar and I would have liked to be there. I only have good memories from Charles, what a great person, in all senses, with an even greater heart and a beautiful mind. I can only think of one word, more than a concept this time, to honor him: legacy. With sincere condolences.

Ted Jackson

Thank you for maintaining the link between Charles and his family and so many of us who have admired his talent and humanity, learned so much from him, and were inspired by his leadership, innovation and integrity. Please convey to them my deepest condolences, and also those of Magda, to his family.

Nancy MacPherson

I am devastated and can only imagine how you are all feeling. We have lost a wonderful friend, colleague, mentor and one of the finest human beings I know.

Murray Glow

So sorry to hear that. An admirable man taken too soon.

Heather Buchanan

Sympathies. Will be thinking of you and of Charles on Monday. Warm hug my friend.

Carroll Solomon

A great heart has been taken from us and many hearts are breaking right now. I send you my condolences and love.

Deborah McWhinney

Very, very sorry to hear this news. Sending love to you and the whole team.

Emma Mason

My thoughts are with his wife and family. Lots of love.

Kathyrn Dunlop

I am so sorry -- such a prince of a man -- thank you for arranging a visit for me so I could let him know how he influenced me and how grateful I was to have known him and been mentored by him... my heart aches for those close to him.

Peter Morgan

So sad. Sir Charles and I had many laughs over the years mainly centered on the absurd aspects of work and life. I hadn't seen in some years but I will surely miss him. He was also a favourite of my wife Maria. She always looked forward to us having Charles for dinner in DC.

Stephanie Garrow

I am so saddened to hear this news about our dear Charles. Please know I am thinking about you, one of Charles’ oldest and dearest colleagues and all the mentoring and friendship and support you provided us young consultants as we were growing up both personally and professionally very important stages in our life. Much love during this difficult time.

Gary Anderson

Dearest Evy, Lise and I were saddened by the news of Charles’ passing. Our deepest sympathy to you, Sarah, Hannah, Rebecca, Peter and your extended family. Charles has been a dear friend and a profound positive influence on my life for more than 40 years, and his enlightening perspective on work, business and our path on this earth will be sorely missed. We all benefitted so much from having him a part of our lives, and we temper our grief with the many gifts he has left with us for our whole existence. Be strong in this troubled time and be grateful as you celebrate his extraordinary life.

Diana McLean

Charles was a very special person and I am so grateful to have worked closely with him a few times in recent years.