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Former interim president Myron Coulter dies at age 82

by Jeanne Baron

Oct. 7, 2011 | WMU News

Photo Myron Coulter.
Dr. Myron Coulter
Dr. Myron L. Coulter, a former Western Michigan University administrator and interim president, died Oct. 4, in Waynesville, N.C. He was 82.

Coulter came to WMU in 1966 as associate dean of what is now the College of Education and Human Development and left in 1976 to become president of Idaho State University. He went on to serve as chancellor of Western Carolina University from 1984 to 1994.

At WMU, Coulter served in several administrative positions in addition to his role as a professor of education. These positions included vice president for institutional services from 1968 to 1974, interim president for six months in 1974, and a return until 1976 to his former position, which had been renamed vice president for administration.

Coulter served as interim president between the retirement of Dr. James W. Miller and the assumption of presidential duties by Dr. John T. Bernhard. He took the helm at WMU during a critical decision-making period, so rather than appointing a caretaker (acting) president, the WMU Board of Trustees appointed him interim president.

Many of the key decisions Coulter was responsible for during that period involved WMU's budget request to the Michigan Legislature and the Legislature's appropriation for the University and issues related to student recruitment as well as faculty promotions and tenure.

Coulter was involved in such professional organizations as the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which he served as board of directors chairman in 1988-89. He wrote many scholarly articles, had expertise the Latin American education systems and directed reading workshops and in-service programs for reading teachers in the United States.

An Indiana native, Coulter served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954 and began his professional career as school teacher in Indiana and Michigan. Before coming to WMU, he had taught at Indiana University and at Penn State University, where he also was director of that university's Latin American Education Project.

Coulter, known to friends and colleagues by his nickname of "Barney," guided Western Carolina for a decade characterized by a renewed emphasis on excellence in teaching; service to the Western North Carolina region, and outreach to the international community.

During his tenure as chancellor, the university established the Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence. The facility was later renamed the Coulter Faculty Commons for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, in recognition of Coulter's support of the center's efforts both as chancellor and, upon his retirement, as Chancellor Emeritus and Distinguished University Professor.

As part of his emphasis on global outreach, Coulter led delegations to the Netherlands to establish a partnership in business education with Hogeschool West Brabant, to China to set up agreements for educational and cultural exchange with Yunnan University, and to Thailand, Swaziland and Jamaica to create and strengthen agreements for vocational, technical and teacher training.

An active community leader in North Carolina, Coulter founded several civic organizations as well as served on the boards of numerous civic and business organizations. In addition, he served for 12 years by gubernatorial appointment as the founding chair of the N.C. Certification Commission.

Coulter earned a bachelor's degree from Indiana State University in 1951 and a master's degree in 1956 and doctoral degree in 1959, both from Indiana University. He received an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters in from the College of Idaho in 1982.

A celebration of life service will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, in the Western Carolina University Fine and Performing Arts Center. A reception will immediately follow. Visit and click Obituaries for an online memorial register.

Memorial donations may be made to the Coulter Faculty Commons at WCU, c/o WCU Office of Development, 201 H.F. Robinson Building, Cullowhee, NC 28723; First United Methodist Church of Waynesville, P.O. Box 838, Waynesville, NC 28786; Christ United Methodist Church of Gastonia, 3415 Union Road, Gastonia, NC 28056; or Haywood Regional Medical Center Hospice, 560 Leroy George Drive, Clyde, NC 28786.