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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62 (1993)


Suggested Citation:"THE LATER YEARS: RETIREMENT." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
Page 55
Suggested Citation:"THE LATER YEARS: RETIREMENT." National Academy of Sciences. 1993. Biographical Memoirs: Volume 62. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/2201.
Page 56

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JOHN NATHANIEL COUCH 55 measure that this last philosophical approach, as reflected by his scientific accomplishments, was adhered to by Dr. Couch, either purposely or by accident, and was enormously successful. THE LATER YEARS: RETIREMENT Though John Couch officially retired from the University of North Carolina in 1968 at the age of seventy-two, "retired" was not the way most of us would have described him. He was, in fact, active until his death at the age of ninety. Except that he was weaker and unable to keep long hours, his mind remained active and creative. He was an editor, with Charles Bland, of his final publication in 1985, The Genus Coelomomyces, and even remarked to Chuck after its completion, "Now that we have gotten Coelomomyces out of the way, we need to get started on a revision of The Genus Septobasidium.3 Like the latter, The Genus Coelomomyces represented a retrospective review of years of his own work and work by colleagues and students. In addition to his recognition of the blastocladiaceous affinities of Coelomomyces, Couch was responsible for establishing the family Coelomomycetaceae, describing numerous new species and varieties, possibly maintaining for the first time in the laboratory mosquitoes infected with C. punctatus, and making innumerable additional observations that helped other investigators clarify the life cycle of Coelomomyces. Even after retirement the honors continued. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) awarded Couch an honorary doctor of science degree in 1973, and the Mycological Society of America recognized him with the Distinguished Mycologist Award in 1981. In 1979 the Department of Botany at UNC-CH named its library in honor of Dr. Couch who, over the years, had generously provided

JOHN NATHANIEL COUCH 56 books, subscriptions, and other support for its collections. And he continued to return the favors in his retirement as he had throughout his career, culminating with the John N. Couch Professorship in Botany established in 1984 by Dr. and Mrs. Couch. The Couches shared sixty years of marriage and enjoyed a son, a daughter, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Else, remains in Chapel Hill, where she has maintained her late husband's tradition of giving by establishing a memorial fund in the UNC-CH Department of Biology (botany and zoology merged into one department in 1982) to be used for a John N. Couch Undergraduate Award for Scholarship in the Plant Sciences. Their son, John Philip, is a professor of romance languages at UNC-Greensboro. Their daughter, Sally Couch Vilas, an artist and wife of UNC-CH professor of bacteriology Harry Gooder, lives in Chapel Hill. As those who knew him will attest, John Couch was a modest man who took his many honors as results of contributions he could make, rather than as personal accomplishments. He believed in hard work, in frugality, and in leaving no possibility unexplored. He carried his personal and professional life in his modest way, with curiosity in the lead, with intensity of purpose and attention to detail close behind, and always with integrity and kindness. His life's journey has touched many, and its influence will continue into generations ahead. ACKNOWLEDGMENT IS MADE TO earlier articles honoring John Couch, including "The Career of John Nathaniel Couch," by Leland Shanor, published in Mycological Studies Honoring John N. Couch, a special issue of the Journal of the Elisha Mitchell Scientific Society, 84:1-280, 1968, edited by

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Biographic Memoirs: Volume 62 contains the biographies of deceased members of the National Academy of Sciences and bibliographies of their published works. Each biographical essay was written by a member of the Academy familiar with the professional career of the deceased. For historical and bibliographical purposes, these volumes are worth returning to time and again.

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