Obituaries

Credit: Tennessee Department of State

Walter Durham, BA’48, MA’56

State Historian

Walter Thomas Durham of Nashville died May 24, 2013. He was 88. The author of 24 books about Tennessee history, he had served since 2002 with the Tennessee State Library and Archives as state historian.

During World War II, Durham served with the U.S. Air Force in Africa and Italy. At Vanderbilt he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha honorary societies. He was a partner in Durham Building Supply Co. in Gallatin from 1948 to 1973, founder and later president of Gallatin Aluminum Products Co., chairman of Wholesale Plumbing and Electric Supply Co., and chairman of First and Peoples National Banks of Gallatin from 1979 to 1986.

He served in leadership roles for numerous historical and library organizations, including the Tennessee Historical Society, Tennessee Library Advisory Council, Sumner County Historical Society, Tennessee Archives Summit, Friends of the Vanderbilt Library and Tennessee Historical Commission. He was founding president of Tennessee Heritage Alliance, now the Tennessee Preservation Trust.

Durham was recipient of the Jaycees Distinguished Service Award, Peabody College’s Glass Apple in recognition of his special contributions to education, the Tennessee History Book Award presented by the Tennessee Historical Commission and Tennessee Library Association, the Award of Merit from the American Association for State and Local History, and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Tennessee Preservation Trust.

An active member of Gallatin United Methodist Church, he served as board chairman for the Tennessee Annual Conference of the UMC from 1984 to 1992. He served on the Tennessee State Industrial Development Commission from 1963 to 1972. And he served Vanderbilt on the Alumni Association Board of Directors and as chairman of the Steering Committee for the Heard Library Society.

Durham is survived by his wife, Anna C. Durham, BA’49; four children, including Robert C. Durham, BA’76; four grandchildren; a sister and a niece.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Credit: Vanderbilt University

John Rich, BA’51

Dyed-in-the-Wool ’Dore

John Rich, a trustee, emeritus, of the Vanderbilt Board of Trust and a longtime advocate for Vanderbilt’s athletic program, died May 20, 2013. He was 85.

As a youth in Mississippi, Rich knew very little about Vanderbilt University, but once he donned the black and gold as a member of Vanderbilt’s football team in 1945, he never wanted to take it off. Vanderbilt and the Nashville community quickly became Rich’s home, and he went on to dedicate countless hours of his life lending his expertise and sharing resources toward the betterment of the university he grew to love.

Rich lettered for the Commodore football team in 1945 and also earned three varsity letters in baseball, leading the 1949 squad in batting. However, his time as an undergraduate was nearly cut short. On the verge of expulsion, he was provided a second chance by the dean of students. He never forgot that opportunity and lived his life trying to repay his beloved university.

Upon graduation Rich founded Delta Coals Inc. and became actively involved in several university and athletic initiatives. As a member of the Steering Committee for the athletics campaign, Rich provided leadership for major Vanderbilt capital projects, including expansion of McGugin Center and the 1982 construction of Vanderbilt Stadium.

In 2002, Vanderbilt officials recognized Rich for his years of dedication by renaming the renovated football-practice facilities adjoining McGugin Center in his honor. Rich joined the Board of Trust in 1988 and was named trustee, emeritus, in 2003. He was also a member of the Dean’s Council, Blair Patrons Society, Owen Associates, and Friends of the Children’s Hospital.

In 2008, Rich was elected to the inaugural Vanderbilt Athletics Hall of Fame class.

“John Rich was a true giant of a man,” says Vanderbilt Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos. “His immense capacity for faithfulness and determination was a continuous thread interwoven throughout his life. Personally, I will always remember John as a great friend and mentor. I learned more about life and the world in an hour at Delta Coals than a day in formal meetings.”

Survivors include his wife of 61 years, Norma Ann Tate Rich; three children, including D. Tate Rich, BA’76, JD’79, and J. William Rich, ’85; and 10 grandchildren, including Kathryn “Katie” Tate Dick, BS’07; David Tate Rich Jr., MBA’09; Ellen Lucile Rich, BS’10; John Robert Rich, MEd’04; Christopher Rich Tompkins, BS’10; and Thomas Eugene “Tee” Tompkins Jr., BS’05; and four great-grandchildren.

Read tributes to John Rich by Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos, Head Football Coach James Franklin and others.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Credit: Country Music Association

Janet Rickman, BA’72

Star Maker

Janet Rickman, a longtime Nashville music industry publicist, died March 19, 2013. She was 63.

Rickman began her music-industry career as a publicist for PolyGram–Mercury Nashville in the mid-1970s, working with the Statler Brothers, Johnny Rodriguez, and a young Reba McEntire. During stints in both the Los Angeles and New York publicity departments of Mercury Records, she worked closely with Tears for Fears, Rush, John Mellencamp and other artists.

After returning to Nashville to head up the MCA Nashville publicity and video department, she worked extensively with McEntire, Vince Gill, George Strait, Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, Trisha Yearwood and others during MCA Nashville’s ride as “Label of the Decade.” She retired from MCA Nashville in the late 1990s and began a second career with the Metro Nashville Library.

She is survived by family and friends.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

Credit: Stacey Irvin

Donald H. Evans

Art Pioneer

Donald H. Evans, professor of art and art history, emeritus, of Joelton, Tenn., died May 6, 2013. He was 74. He earned a national reputation for his ambitious and interdisciplinary work, which often included epic-scaled events.

After earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1962 and a master of fine arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1968, he joined what was then called the Vanderbilt Department of Fine Arts in 1969. As director of the Vanderbilt Media Experimentation Center, he offered pioneering courses in video art, multimedia and computer graphics.

Through the years Evans played an influential role in the Nashville experimental arts community. His instruction in wide-ranging media earned him the reputation of an enlightened and inspiring teacher. Some of his artistic events included live-action performance, spontaneous creation of two-dimensional images, pyrotechnics, sculptures, music and films. One example from 2001 was “Burning Banjos II,” a public multimedia performance and installation.

Shortly before his retirement in 2001, Sarratt Gallery hosted Don’s Big Show, a retrospective exhibit that included 100 of his works, a quintessential Evans art installation, and “The 100 Bag Event.” One hundred bags containing a variety of art supplies, including old magazines and ceramic statues, were handed out to visitors, who then used their imaginations to create a mural on one of the walls.

Evans remained active in the arts community after he took emeritus status. He participated in two team-collaborative projects at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in 2007 and 2008. Seven of his films, including Data Bank and Video Dance, won awards. Evans’ prolific video works also included Visual Prison, Light Sensitive People, Jack’s Big Adventure and Tracks across the Yukon.

He is survived by his wife and daughter.

  • gamoonbat

    I remember very well some of the “happenings” and multimedia art creations of Don Evans. I was fascinated by these even though I must have been only twelve or thirteen years old at the time.