February 20, 2014
On the morning of Feb. 17, Patsy Couper passed away surrounded by family members. With the the death of Ellie Wertimer in January, the Hamilton community has lost two of the most iconic women to ever grace the Hill. Like Wertimer, Couper had a relationship with the College that dated back to the 1940s, and both women maintained strong presences in the community even after their husbands--and direct connections to Hamilton--died.
Throughout her life, Couper promoted Hamilton’s mission of academic and personal development for both students and for herself. Her grants have allowed the College to adapt to the changing world by providing aid for summer internships (the Richard & Patsy Couper Grant), as well as faculty research and teaching endeavors (the Williams-Watrous-Couper Fund). Couper herself was a lifelong student; she continued to sit in on classes and even received an honorary degree from the College in 2011. The extension of this love of learning into her later years truly shows that a true liberal arts education does not end at graduation.
One can read about Couper’s background and accomplishments in this week’s cover story. However, for this week’s editorial, The Spectator would also like to propose five “lessons from Patsy” for current and future Hamiltonians. After all, Couper refused to let herself live in the past. We’ve enumerated some ways to carry on her bright legacy in our daily lives:
1. Couper loved nature and taking strolls through the Glen. We should appreciate the unique features of our surrounding environment and find some time each day to spend outside, even in the snow.
2. Couper attended a wide variety of Hamilton events, showing appreciation for activities such as women’s lacrosse and choir musicals. We should exhibit curiosity for activities beyond our usual interests and always push ourselves to bask in the accomplishments of others.
3. Couper maintained a lifelong interest in learning. We should challenge ourselves to learn one new thing every day, read about topics we know little about, and never forsake the opportunity to learn, even after we leave the Hill.
4. Couper always cherished the opportunity to connect with others whenever she could. We should embrace the opportunity to meet and get to know other Hamiltonians every day. Orientation shouldn’t be the only time we really make an effort to forge new relationships.
5. Couper managed to achieve the delicate balance between holding onto a uniquely Hamiltonian character and adapting to the demands of a changing society. We should seek to understand differences and changes in the world, not run from them or wallow in nostalgia.
A lot will be said about Patsy Couper in the next few weeks, but inevitably, for the waves of new students to come, her name will be little more than the name of a library classroom. It is our duty, as those who had the pleasure to know her in person, to carry on her legacy as not only a great presence in our lives at Hamilton, but also as a way to approach life: with consistent friendliness, relentless curiosity and unabashed optimism.