Patricia Pogue Couper, longtime Hamilton benefactor and friend to countless students and employees, died on Feb. 17, 2014, in her home in Clinton at the age of 90.
A native of Cincinnati, she earned a degree in French from Smith College before coming to Hamilton in 1946 with her husband, Richard “Dick” Couper, Class of 1944, who like so many of his classmates had returned to finish studies interrupted by World War II. After a time in Binghamton, N.Y., they returned to the Hill when Dick served his alma mater as administrative vice president and later as acting president.
The Coupers left Hamilton once again for two decades, afterwhich they moved “home” in 1990 following Dick’s retirement, built a house about a mile from campus and soon became immersed in the College community. The couple had created the Williams-Watrous-Couper Fund in 1955, which provides support for faculty research and teaching improvement, and later funded other endowments to support the library and students working in unfunded summer internships. Other local groups, such as the Kirkland Town Library and the Oneida County Historical Society, also benefitted from their generosity.
After her husband’s death in 2006, Patsy Couper remained a steady presence on campus. She audited classes, exercised in the fitness center, treated dozens of students to lunch (many of them beneficiaries of her contributions to financial aid funds) and attended concerts, lectures, athletic events and every annual celebration from Convocation to Commencement. She presented Hamilton with an annual “birthday gift to myself” and often made gifts to honor alumni, professors and staff members, each of whom had come to cherish her friendship. After her death, dozens of employees and students shared reflections that appeared in the Feb. 20, 2014, edition of The Spectator. Among them was Professor of History Al Kelly, who expressed his sentiment succinctly: “Patsy had the simplicity and goodness that can come only from true depth of character. Her sunshine was always real.”
In 2007, the Alumni Association recognized her with the Bell Ringer Award, and, four years later, Hamilton dedicated the Patricia Pogue Couper Research Room in the Burke Library and presented her with an honorary doctor of humane letters.
“It is difficult to imagine College Hill without Patsy’s optimism, smiling benevolence and immense good will,” President Joan Hinde Stewart said in announcing her passing. “The people and things she cared about shone through in all her conversations: wildflowers, Dick Couper, their children and grandchildren, libraries, music, Hamilton College. I am surely not the only one who took encouragement and hope from every meeting I had with her and who will cherish the beautiful cards and letters she wrote by hand.”
Patricia Pogue Couper, who often noted, “Life on the Hill is too good to me to be elsewhere,” is survived by three children, Frederick, Thomas and Margaret Haskins; and four grandchildren. Another son, Barrett, predeceased her.
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Patricia Bakwin Selch P’79,88, who served as a College trustee from 1980 to 1985, died on Jan. 6, 2014, at the age of 84. A graduate of Wellesley College, she was the wife of Frederick “Eric” R. Selch ’52. Co-founder of the Friends of Art at her alma mater, she partnered with her husband on many arts-related projects, including establishing the Federal Music Society, publishing Ovation Magazine and producing a Broadway show, Play Me a Country Song. For Hamilton, she served for many years on the Committee on the Visual Arts, lent pieces from her personal collection and hosted events in her New York City home. Following Eric’s death in 2002, she donated their extensive collection of musical instruments and rare books to what would become the Selch Collection of American Music History at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. Pat Selch is survived by four children, Nicholas ’79, Gregory ’88, Jason and Andrea; 10 grandchildren; a sister; and two brothers.
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Eleanor Walsh Wertimer, an advocate for women on campus, champion for social justice in the community and friend to generations of students and alumni, died in Clinton on Jan. 18, 2014, a week shy of her 92nd birthday.
After earning her undergraduate degree from Smith College, Eleanor Walsh returned to her hometown to earn a law degree from the University of Buffalo at a time when few women were entering the legal profession. While practicing law, she married Sidney Wertimer, Jr., and came with him to College Hill in 1952 when he was offered a position in the Economics Department. In those all-male years, faculty wives took on traditional roles, quietly serving tea at receptions, sewing costumes for theatre productions and chaperoning at houseparties. Ellie Wertimer would change all that. Having once described her 57-year marriage as one of “two chiefs and no Indians,” she was outspoken, especially on issues of fairness and equality.
After raising four children, Ellie Wertimer returned to the law as a judicial clerk and later as an attorney for the Oneida County Department of Social Services. She served for more than a decade as executive director of Family Services of Greater Utica and for two decades as Kirkland town justice. In addition, she volunteered on numerous boards, including the Clinton School Board, the Children’s Museum, the YWCA, the Children’s Hospital, the Utica Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Greater Utica Area United Way. Not surprisingly her contributions resulted in many honors, perhaps most notably the Hugh R. Jones Award presented by the Oneida County Bar Association in 1997. It recognizes the lawyer who has made outstanding contributions to the bar and the community; Ellie was the first woman to receive it, the association’s highest accolade.
After her husband’s death in 2005, she kept the Wertimer presence front and center at Hamilton by auditing courses, attending concerts and sporting events, and, in a tradition she and Sid kept for decades, opening her home to trustees when they returned to the Hill. In 2001, the College recognized her exceptional service with its Bell Ringer Award.
“Her wit, wisdom and generous spirit personified the best our College offers,” wrote President Joan Hinde Stewart in a campuswide email following her death. “She was a pioneer in the local community and a friend to generations of Hamilton alumni. Her death leaves a great void on campus and in the Mohawk Valley.”
Eleanor Walsh Wertimer is survived by her children, Peter, Sheila, Stephen and Thomas; 10 grandchildren; a brother; and two sisters.
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