Retired art professor Coulter, 76, dies

Ann Wilson

Born in Houston, Texas on June 26, 1934, and laid to rest in Arkadelphia on Feb. 26, 2011, what lies in between is the life, art and influences of former Henderson professor Joseph Carl Coulter Jr.

“Coulter,” a man whose name was praised by numerous students in Henderson’s halls, is now deceased after a battle with leukemia.

Coulter is preceded in death by his parents Marvel McGonagle and Joseph Carl Coulter Sr. He is survived by his sisters Valerie Coulter and Camille Bigham, his brother-in-law Jim Bigham, his daughters Kimberly and Shannon Coulter, Kimberly’s husband, Chris Peets and their two children Benjamin and Zachary Peets and Shannon’s daughter Ashley Williams.

Coulter earned his Bachelor of Fine Arts at the University of Texas and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California. While in Texas, he studied under the famous sculptor Dr. Charles Umlauf.

Inevitably the working world beckoned, and a Houston engineering company hired Coulter as a draftsman. Soon after, in 1961, he took a position as a professor in Henderson’s art department. Due to his thriving successes and strategies, he then headed the art department. Through Coulter’s connections and ingenuity, he expanded the department into the media variations it offers to this day.

“I remember him building the metal foundry of which the art department is so proud today. It is unusual for such a small university to have bronze and metal casting capabilities, but through his reputation, he was able to attract a benefactor to fund the project,” said former student Beverly Buys.

The department flourished, expanding from an intense focus on painting to an entire building booming with printmaking, photography, ceramics and sculpture. “He had a passion for teaching and loved coming to work every day,” Ellis College Dean Maralyn Sommer said.

At the 30-year mark, Coulter retired in the late 1980’s. “His passion for life and art was contagious,” Beverly Buys admitted.

Coulter enjoyed the outdoors, sailing, photography, making furniture, playing poker and swing dancing. He also loved to travel to Utah and take photos of the Indian ruins.

He was also a successful artist, preparing paintings for display in the Dubose Art Gallery in Houston, Texas. He won awards with his beautiful ceramics and was recognized for his works throughout Texas and Arkansas. According to Buys, “His ceramics were distinctive for the blues and reds he could coax out of a glaze.”

Joe Coulter was an artist, a mentor and a man who not only dreamed big, but also conquered. He would not settle for merely passing students but instead insisted on pushing students to be great.

“He could send you into a rage or bring you to tears with his expectations and critiques, but his students never forgot him, and when he taught you something, you learned it forever,” Beverly Buys said.

The family would like to recognize St. Joseph’s Hospital and Cindy Reese (Joe’s caregiver) for their professional touch and personal warmth. The family would also like to extend their gratitude to all of Joe’s wonderful close friends — Lamar and Joyce Watkins, Mike Hayden, Bill Stephenson and Millie Coulter — for their amazing support in such difficult times.

There will be a memorial service, headed by Rev. John Miles, on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. at the United Methodist Church. Coulter’s family invites anyone who would like to show their love and blessings to donate to a charity in Coulter’s memory.

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