Hamilton College alumnus Richard W. Couper '44, a sixth-generation graduate of the college, will deliver the address at Hamilton's traditional Class & Charter Day awards celebration on Friday, May 7, at 12:15 p.m. in the Chapel. Class & Charter Day is an annual convocation recognizing student and faculty excellence during the preceding academic year.
Couper's talk is titled "The Third Time Around" to reflect the fact that this is the third Class & Charter Day address he has been invited to give at Hamilton. He spoke in 1954 on "The Hamilton-Oneida Academy," and again in 1994 on "Federalism, a 50th and Hamilton-Oneida." In addition, Couper's late mother, Esther, spoke at the ceremony in 1997, and his late father, Edgar, gave the address in 1962.
Hamilton College President Joan Hinde Stewart said, "Richard Couper and his family have shown an extraordinary commitment and a deep love for Hamilton over many generations. I am extremely pleased that in this year of Dick's 60th reunion, he is willing to extend this generosity by sharing his own history of the college with the current generation of Hamilton students."
Couper, a life trustee of Hamilton, was born in Binghamton, N.Y. He entered Hamilton with the class of 1944, but enlisted in the Army in 1942 during World War II. He rose in rank to captain and served as a company commander in the ordnance department in Attu. He returned to Hamilton and graduated in 1947 with Phi Beta Kappa honors and honors in Greek and history. In 1948 he earned a master's degree from Harvard University with a concentration in American history. In 1962 Couper returned to Hamilton as administrative vice president. Later he was promoted to acting president and then vice president and provost.
In 1969 Couper joined the New York State Education Department as first deputy commissioner for higher education. Two years later he became the New York Public Library's first full-time president and chief executive officer, where he served for 10 years. In 1981 Couper became president of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, serving until his retirement in 1990.
He served as a member of the Oneida County Historical Society board of trustees from 1993-1999, and later its board of councilors. In 2002 the Oneida County Historical Society renamed its "Living Legends" award in his honor.
Couper, his wife, Patsy, and others members of their family have devoted themselves to lifetime support of Hamilton College and its success. In 1992 the College dedicated Couper Hall, and seven years later the Coupers endowed the position of librarian at Hamilton. His own keen interest in history prompted Couper to make the library position a priority, "that encourages genius to function."
Couper has served his undergraduate alma mater in many capacities, including chairman of the Alumni Fund in 1957, trustee since 1959, vice president from 1962-66, and acting president from 1966-68. He has received a number of honorary degrees from U.S. colleges, the first of which was awarded by Hamilton.