Richard Anthony Couto
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Richard Anthony Couto
  • December 31, 1941 - February 25, 2017
  • Mechanicsville, Virginia

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Richard (Dick) Anthony Couto was born into an extended Portuguese-American, Roman Catholic family in the textile town of Lawrence, Massachusetts on December 31, 1941. All his grandparents had migrated from the Azores, Portugal. His Portuguese heritage and his hometown of Lawrence, an ethnically diverse, rough-around-the-edges neighborhood was central to his life growing up and deeply influenced the adult he became. So, too, was the memory of labor activism in Lawrence's wool-based, textile industry symbolized by the "Bread and Roses" strike of 1912. Reflecting on the continuing influence of the memories of his youth, Dick would explain his motivation for writing: "One of the primary reasons I write is to give voice to people who I think have a very interesting story that touches on the heart of who we think we are as Americans."

He earned his BA from Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1964 majoring in history, and spent several years teaching high school in Lawrence, MA, and the Bronx in NYC as a Marist monk. His first teaching assignment was Algebra. He loved teaching it because as he said, "you can't teach it, you can only help others learn it." The active classroom became his hallmark. While teaching at the Mount in the Bronx Dick took high school students to Appalachia as a service project, which sparked a long-term interest in the people of that region.

Dick earned a Master's degree in Political Science from Boston College in 1969 and his PhD in Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 1974. He held several university-based appointments and was a founding faculty member of both the Antioch PhD program and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. He directed the Center for Health Services, an outgrowth of the student movement, at Vanderbilt from 1975 to 1988. The program pioneered campus and community collaboration and bridged the student movement of the 1960s and the current programs of civic engagement of higher education.

An accomplished scholar, Dick published many books, articles and book chapters ranging across community empowerment and civic engagement; service learning and public scholarship, and leadership. He won several national awards.

When asked what he thought his legacy would be, Dick responded from the perspective of a life-long teacher: "The largest part of my legacy will always be unknown. Those are the seeds that we deposited and that people nurtured on their own. Sometimes there is a wonderful opportunity to come back and share, and some of my students do that. But, I also trust that others are nurturing those seeds on their own."

He married his love, Patricia (Took), in 1972 stepping into a family with two amazing boys, Nathan and Jay. He and Took added a daughter, Barbara, to the family in 1975. He is survived by his wife and three children, their spouses and seven grandchildren. Some of his greatest pleasures in his later years were spending time with his grandchildren, helping them with their homework, teaching them about the pleasures of learning and modeling that it is okay to play no matter what one's age. Upon retiring he became an avid gardener whose main purpose was to give pleasure to Took as she looked out at the beautiful flower gardens he created. He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Richmond, Virginia and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan.

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