In Memoriam: Thelma Shinn Richard

In Memoriam

Thelma Shinn Richard (1942 - 2013)

Thelma Shinn Richard Emeritus professor Thelma Shinn Richard passed away unexpectedly on Thursday, January 24, 2013, in Olalla, Washington. She leaves behind her husband Jon Richard, three daughters who live in Arizona, and two sons, one in West Lafayette, IN, and the other in San Antonio, TX.

Thelma first came to the English department at ASU in 1975 and retired in 2004, moving on to work alongside her husband Jon Richard in a literary agency they started together. Along the way, she had Fulbrights to Spain and South Africa, traveled widely, made connections everywhere, and effectively mentored several generations of students. At various points, she was associate, acting, and interim chair of the department, always stepping up for the greater good and enjoying the confidence of her colleagues. Her range of interests was unbounded.

The English department and members of the ASU community along with friends and family held a celebration of Thelma’s life on Saturday, March 9, in the Memorial Union. The program included music, a poem for Thelma written by Bettie Anne Doebler, a visual presentation of Thelma’s many accomplishments and life-affirming adventures, followed by remarks shared by friends and family. A Memory Book, filled with anecdotes and faculty remembrances was presented to the family. A reception followed.

Friends and family spoke from their hearts and recounted some vivid, enduring memories, at once humorous, touching, and inspiring. The great, good life she lived was well-remembered. Not the least among all the stories was a single common denominator: the clear zest for life she exhibited in all things.

At the gathering, I was able to add that one of my abiding memories of Thelma—how, from the very first time I met her, she smiled, and then she smiled at me every single time thereafter. The smile was invariably genuine. It took me awhile to understand that I was in an English department and that her smile was not simply a smile but a metaphor as well. With this gracious gesture, she taught me that this was the single most effective way to conduct business and friendship both, always moving forward with something first from the heart. This was the way I, too, wanted to move in all things. Her "Thelma" was contagious.

Alberto Ríos


Photo of Thelma Shinn Richard from Department of English archives.

Mariposa Lily (Calochortus leichtlinii) background image from James Terry White, Flowers from Arcadia (1884).