Namesake finishes what uncle began

Mike Daum and daughter Chaz. She graduates with a double major tomorrow.
Mike Daum and daughter Chaz. She graduates with a double major tomorrow. dmiddlecamp@thetribunenews.com

Chaz Daum never was able to meet her uncle, Charles Daum. But she bears his memory in her name, his nickname.

Now she’s completing an educational goal that her late uncle, an All-American football player in college, was closing in on at Cal Poly when a car crash took his life nearly two decades ago.

Today, Chaz, who’s 24, will receive her Cal Poly diploma. She’ll graduate with a double major in graphic communications and business.

Chaz Daum has cherished her time at the university while living in San Luis Obispo — just as her uncle did.

“All my life people have asked me about my name,” Chaz Daum said. “They say it’s uncommon; they ask if it’s a boy’s name, or if it’s short for something. I’m just glad to have such a cool name and for the story behind it. It’s almost as though I’ve had something to live up to.”

Charles Daum, whose friends called him “Charlie” or “Chaz,” had been out at F. McLintocks restaurant with friends and his brother, Mike Daum, on the night of the crash.

They’d met for an informal celebration of the fourth anniversary of Cal Poly’s first and only national football championship in 1980, when the team won the NCAA Division II title game against Eastern Illinois University. Mike Daum also played on the championship team.

As a fast, tall, athletic lineman, Charlie Daum was drafted in the sixth round by the Dallas Cowboys in 1982.

Charlie Daum made several unsuccessful attempts at making a National Football League team. Then he’d returned to Cal Poly to finish his degree in speech communications. He wasn’t many credits away from his degree when he died in a late-night car crash on Dec. 14, 1984, on Broad Street.

Charles Daum drove home after midnight in a 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle convertible. He’d been drinking. His car also had mechanical problems and he was planning to get his brakes fixed, Mike Daum said.

A witness saw a flurry of sparks, his brother said, and then he swerved into a telephone pole, crashed and died.

“Several things just went wrong that night,” Mike Daum said. “I spent a lot of time thinking about it, particularly at that time. When I had my first child, I named her after him, his nickname.”

Mike Daum said his daughter has always been an amazing student.

And her experiences at Cal Poly couldn’t have made her father any prouder.

Chaz Daum said part of the reason she came to Cal Poly was the family tie to the university; her father, an aunt on her mother’s side, and her late uncle all were Mustangs.

She has since had a chance to meet a speech communications professor who was one of her uncle’s favorites, as well as light up the letter “P” on the hill above Cal Poly with her father.

Chaz Daum is also a Cal Poly Rep, a prestigious voluntary position in which students give campus tours and do public outreach to promote Cal Poly.

She has attended football games each year at Cal Poly.

During her years at Cal Poly, she’s held several jobs to help her pay her way through school: working at Linnaea’s coffee shop in San Luis Obispo, the campus bookstore and Meathead Movers; interning in graphic design; and starting a social movement website, www.karmaflows.org, which encourages and tracks “random acts of kindness and good karma.”

“I just love it here, and not only the university, but the town of San Luis,” said Chaz Daum, whose mode of transportation is her bike. “It’s the little things. I can’t really go anywhere without seeing someone or something that makes me smile.”