Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TOP STORY >> Ruth Couch, Beebe educator, dies at 77

Leader staff writer

The prim and proper Ruth Couch, 77, of Beebe passed away at her home on Saturday.

Couch spoke eloquently and had a great sense humor. She was a college professor, a chamber director, a writer and a giver.

Couch was born Sept. 23, 1936, in Magnolia. She was the daughter of Ben and Zettie Couch, who preceded her in death.

Couch is survived by her dog, Missy, and two cousins, Darlene Maddy and Jacinta Denton.

Couch earned a bachelor’s degree at Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia.

She became a teacher, and then she earned a master’s degree at Henderson State University in Arkadelphia. She earned a doctorate at Oklahoma State University.

Beebe Mayor Mike Robertson said, “Dr. Ruth Couch dedicated her life to this community. Civic organizations, the city, Arkansas State University and churches will all miss her passion for assisting others. Never have I known a person with a heart of gold as Ruth Couch.”

Angie Gibbons, administrative assistant to the mayor, said Couch cared about what everyone had to say and tried to help them.

Gibbons said, when she was with Couch, she learned the value of listening, how to be kind and gentle and how to strive to be a little better every day.

In 1971, Couch began working for Arkansas State University in Beebe as an English teacher.

She was the first full-time professor at ASU-Beebe and the first woman to be vice chancellor for academic affairs there, a position she held for nine years.

Couch endowed a scholarship at the university and furnished a faculty workroom in the library that is named in her honor.

She also purchased the bell chimes that ring out across campus on the hour.

After 32 years at ASU-Beebe, Couch retired in 2003. She left a large part of her estate to the university.

ASU-Beebe chancellor Eugene McKay said he and Couch were longtime friends. They were both English teachers at ASU-Beebe in 1971.

“She was a fine person and an excellent teacher. She loved the university. She was tremendously witty and had an extensive vocabulary. (Couch) was a smart, successful, likeable woman. She loved dogs and always had one,” McKay said.

“We will miss her greatly. She was a good employee and a great friend,” McKay said.

Beebe Superintendent Belinda Shook had Couch as a teacher during her freshman English classes at ASU-Beebe.

“She made an impression on me, because she was the first person I met with a doctorate. It was really cool,” Shook said. The superintendent now holds her own doctorate degree.

After retiring from education, Couch took a part-time job as the Beebe Chamber of Commerce director, a position she held for 10 years.

Chamber director Kristen Boswell said, “She was truly an inspirational woman. She made a positive and lasting impression on everyone she met. She was always willing to help. She was a wealth of knowledge. She will be greatly missed.” The chamber’s lifetime service award is named in Couch’s honor.

Couch was also a writer. She wrote a novel, “No Bells Will Ring,” and two books of poetry. She was working on a second book.

A memorial service and celebration of her life will be held at 10 a.m. today at Beebe First Baptist Church. Memorials may be made to the Arkansas State University-Beebe Development Council, P.O. Box 1000, Beebe, Ark., 72012 or to your local church.