Richard Anthony Couto

December 31, 1941February 25, 2017
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Richard (Dick) Anthony Couto was born into an extended Portuguese-American, Roman Catholic family in the textile town of Lawrence, Massachusetts on December 31, 1941. All his grandparents had migrated from the Azores, Portugal. His Portuguese heritage and his hometown of Lawrence, an ethnically diverse, rough-around-the-edges neighborhood was central to his life growing up and deeply influenced the adult he became. So, too, was the memory of labor activism in Lawrence’s wool-based, textile industry symbolized by the “Bread and Roses” strike of 1912. Reflecting on the continuing influence of the memories of his youth, Dick would explain his motivation for writing: “One of the primary reasons I write is to give voice to people who I think have a very interesting story that touches on the heart of who we think we are as Americans.”

He earned his BA from Marist College, in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1964 majoring in history, and spent several years teaching high school in Lawrence, MA, and the Bronx in NYC as a Marist monk. His first teaching assignment was Algebra. He loved teaching it because as he said, “you can’t teach it, you can only help others learn it.” The active classroom became his hallmark. While teaching at the Mount in the Bronx Dick took high school students to Appalachia as a service project, which sparked a long-term interest in the people of that region.

Dick earned a Master’s degree in Political Science from Boston College in 1969 and his PhD in Political Science from the University of Kentucky in 1974. He held several university-based appointments and was a founding faculty member of both the Antioch PhD program and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond. He directed the Center for Health Services, an outgrowth of the student movement, at Vanderbilt from 1975 to 1988. The program pioneered campus and community collaboration and bridged the student movement of the 1960s and the current programs of civic engagement of higher education.

An accomplished scholar, Dick published many books, articles and book chapters ranging across community empowerment and civic engagement; service learning and public scholarship, and leadership. He won several national awards.

When asked what he thought his legacy would be, Dick responded from the perspective of a life-long teacher: “The largest part of my legacy will always be unknown. Those are the seeds that we deposited and that people nurtured on their own. Sometimes there is a wonderful opportunity to come back and share, and some of my students do that. But, I also trust that others are nurturing those seeds on their own.”

He married his love, Patricia (Took), in 1972 stepping into a family with two amazing boys, Nathan and Jay. He and Took added a daughter, Barbara, to the family in 1975. He is survived by his wife and three children, their spouses and seven grandchildren. Some of his greatest pleasures in his later years were spending time with his grandchildren, helping them with their homework, teaching them about the pleasures of learning and modeling that it is okay to play no matter what one’s age. Upon retiring he became an avid gardener whose main purpose was to give pleasure to Took as she looked out at the beautiful flower gardens he created. He was a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Richmond, Virginia and a lifelong Boston Red Sox fan.



  • A Celebration of Life

    Saturday, March 18, 2017


Richard Anthony Couto

have a memory or condolence to add?

James DiResta

May 9, 2017

I am so sorry to hear of Dick Couto passing. I remember Br Couto as a student at CCHS in Lawrence in the late 60's. I played in a folk group, "Jamesy and Sean". Dick would encourage me to develop my music talents and on occasion drive us into Charles Street In Boston to the coffee houses to listen to the up and coming folk artists. When our duo had the opportunity to play the Baptist Convention in Memphis we flew on Allegheny Airlines from Boston by way of Kentucky and Dick drove us from Lexington to Louisville to catch a connecting flight and put us up for a night. We were 16 years old at the time. Later, when I applied for admission to Boston College Br Couto wrote me my college recommendation and when I was accepted I knew in my heart that it was his recommendation that gained me acceptance (he had just completed study for his master's degree at BC). I eventually decided to pursue a career in medicine but often pick up my guitar and play S&G, Phil Ochs, The Weavers, many groups introduced to me from Br Couto. As a teenager I knew he was leaving the religious life to later marry and I wondered just who that person was but knew she must have been someone so very special. It is just by chance as I was packing our home up where my wife and I have raised our 6 children and now as empty nesters are moving on to a smaller nest that I came across a note in a card from Br Richard Couto. In the note he thanked me for bringing music to our monthly Masses and being one of the "people". I am just so very grateful to have known him and know that I would never have had the opportunities I found without that letter of recommendation to Boston College and the Jesuit education I received. Please accept my deepest condolences. James "Jamesy" DiResta

April 17, 2017

It's such a pleasure to go back and read the entries here. I thank all of you for remembering him so well. I miss him every day but am consoled by the impact he has had on so many people including his close family.

Patricia Rutherford Couto

Ann Hodges

March 20, 2017

I was on the committee that hired Dick at the University of Richmond. I remember first reading his cv and being incredibly impressed with his work. I was so delighted when he joined the faculty of the leadership school, which was so fortunate to have him. He was a valuable member of the UR faculty and a great mentor to those students who wanted to use their leadership skills for social justice. He was one of the early proponents of experiential learning at Richmond, which has become a hallmark of the school. It was Richmond's loss when he left us. What a great blessing it was to have known him and been inspired by him, like many others.

Ann Hodges, UR Law

March 18, 2017

You will be missed. Pat Vaughn (1st UU Richmond)

Kathryn Gaines

March 18, 2017

I am so grateful to have had Dick as my doctoral advisor at Antioch. Not only was he a gifted, inspiring teacher, but a warm and generous soul. Not only did I learn so much from our conversations, but he personally connected me with a world of leadership scholars, including the late James MacGregor Burns, and opened up to me a lifelong professional community. He always shared stories that reflected his love for his family and never failed to ask me about my own. He is someone who always knew what really mattered most. He is greatly missed and I'm sad to know that he's no longer with us.

Gabriel Manyang Aluong

March 17, 2017

Dear Dick Couto, I knew you as a soft-spoken man who lived your full life in a very dignified and sincere way. You were a man who gives your full attention to a stranger and let him know and believe that you were a real good person in your heart, mind, soul, and deeds. Dick was a good man that feared God, but not a stranger. That was how I met Dick around 2005 and I became a family friend since then. Death is such a horrible and the most scariest thing to happen to humankind and my heart is broken to see you gone. God gave us and took away a man who made us all (those who knew him) so proud for the way he treated us all with true love and great level of respect. Richard Couto, I will miss you dearly forever, but will never forget your kindness my dear friend. God Bless your soul and RIP, Amen.

Peter Iverson

March 15, 2017

Dick Couto grew up not far from a fishing community on the East coast. I grew up not far from a fishing community on the West coast. When we first became acquainted, we realized that we both shared other things in common, including of course, baseball. Eventually we realized that our teams could not always win but cheering on the Red Socks gave us a keener sense of what could happen. In time, the Red Socks could even surpass the Yankees. If that could happen, almost any result could be achieved. Couto made revival of community life seem possible. Thank you Dick.

Chip Espinoza

March 15, 2017

I have such great appreciation for the work of Dr. Couto. I am a student of his. His lectures were about the subject of leadership--primarily you as a leader. His scholarship transcended theory and ultimately focused on the person as a leader. It is rare to find an expert authority who suspends his or her grasp on a subject to allow others to find their own. His work has a mark in my work and that is what I hope for concerning the students that study with me.

The first assignment he gave my colleagues and me was to draw an image of leadership. It is an assignment that I require of all of my students to this day. His insight into and ability to connect with students was amazing. Every student or client I have had the privilege to work with benefits from what Dr. Couto taught me.

I will forever be grateful for his influence and his example.

Naomi Nightingale

March 15, 2017

I will miss Dick. I learned so much from him He will also be a cherished memory of my Antioch experience.

Tracy Ransome

March 15, 2017

Thank you RC for being an amazing Leadership Studies professor & friend! Thank you for coming to my lacrosse games @ Richmond & helping me with my thesis! You are one of my favs! May your life after life be blissful & blessed! You are missed! heart emoticon