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Former Idaho State University first lady Barbara Helen Bolinger Coulter passed away Dec. 29

January 3, 2019

Former Idaho State University first lady Barbara Helen Bolinger Coulter, 89, of Waynesville, North Carolina, passed away Saturday, Dec. 29, in Haywood County.

Headshot of Barbara CoulerBorn Dec. 26, 1929, in Ridgeville, Indiana, to Wilbur R. and Dorothy Bolinger, she was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Myron L. “Barney” Coulter, former ISU president; and her sister, Rosemary Bolinger Ramsey. She and her husband married on July 21, 1951, in Dunkirk, Indiana, and had been married for 60 years when he passed on Oct. 4, 2011.

A graduate of Jay County High School in Dunkirk, Indiana, she played English horn in the school marching band. She worked as a clerk in a local dime store in Dunkirk, for the local power utility, as a dean’s secretary at Indiana University and part-time as a social worker in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

She served as interim first lady of Western Michigan University, first lady of Idaho State University for eight years and first lady of Western Carolina University for 10 years. She received the Trustees’ Award from WCU in 1994. She and her husband, then chancellor of WCU, hosted regular receptions at the Chancellor’s Residence to honor graduates and their families following commencement.  Together, they developed and endowed WCU’s Coulter Faculty Center for Teaching Excellence, now known as the Coulter Faculty Commons for Excellence in Teaching and Learning. The university also is home to the Chancellor Myron L. “Barney” and Mrs. Barbara Coulter Distinguished Professorship in the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning.

She was a member of the American Association of University Women, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, and the Kalamazoo chapter of the NAACP. She worked with the Carter administration on the Panama Canal treaty, and was a member of the boards of directors of the Idaho State University Civic Symphony and Friends of the Smokies. An honorary member of Alpha Chi Omega, she was active with the faculty women’s bowling league at Idaho State University, the 20th Century and Newcomers Clubs, the Waynesville Garden Club, and several bridge clubs.

A highly accomplished entertainer, cook and hostess, in her unpaid position as a community ambassador on behalf of the universities led by her husband, her hallmark was making everyone feel welcomed, at home and very special as honored guests. She enjoyed reading (especially to children), traveling (especially to U.S. national parks), planning and hosting social events, participating in social activism, listening to classical and country-and-western music, gourmet cooking, bridge, bowling, crocheting, pottery and china painting, animals and horseback riding.

 She was keenly interested in and supportive of students at all stages of learning. She traveled the world (Alaska, Hawaii, China, Thailand, Central Europe, Central America, South America and Jamaica) promoting higher education and teaching excellence. She was a fierce advocate for women’s and children’s rights, and was a patron of performing and fine arts.

 Surviving are her daughter Nan Elizabeth Coulter of Sylva; son Dr. Benjamin Coulter of Maggie Valley; two granddaughters, Mary Elizabeth Coulter of Atlanta and Abigail Kristine Coulter of Raleigh; nieces Barbara Ellen Ramsey of San Diego, Cheryl Gates and Debbie Bennett of Indiana; and nephews Philip Bryan Ramsey of Roseville, California, Brent Ramsey of San Diego and Paul Bishop of Indiana.

Services will be Sunday, Jan. 6, beginning with visitation at 1:15 p.m. and a celebration of life at 2 p.m., with a committal service to follow. Services will be held at First United Methodist Church of Waynesville and committal at the Room of Memory at the Memorial Chapel at Lake Junaluska Assembly in Waynesville.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Children’s Hope Alliance at childrenshopealliance.org.

Wells Funeral Home and Cremation Services in Waynesville is in charge of arrangements.




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