Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Difference Maker: Dr. Suanne Davis Roueche's Profound Impact on American Community Colleges

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Difference Maker: Dr. Suanne Davis Roueche's Profound Impact on American Community Colleges

Article excerpt

They traveled from far and near to pay tribute to a community college pioneer.

The list of the attendees at the memorial service read like a who's who of the world of community colleges. There were former and current community college presidents, thought leaders, former students and colleagues, who, on a Saturday morning in February, arrived at the Renaissance Arboretum Hotel in Austin to celebrate the life of their friend and comrade, Dr. Suanne Davis Roueche.

Roueche--a prolific educator, administrator and researcher--passed away in December after a courageous battle with lung cancer. She was 75.

When it was his turn to speak, Dr. Walter G. Bumphus, the president and CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges reflected on the years--spanning four decades--that he knew and worked with Roueche.

"I had a front row seat in working with Suanne," says Bumphus. "Suanne was the difference maker for female [students] and students of color as they were navigating their doctoral program."

Bumphus would certainly know.

In the 1980s, he was one of Roueche's doctoral students and would later become her supervisor during his tenure as chair of the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin.

Roueche, he says, was a master teacher, who loved the classroom and was, above all else, firmly committed to her students.

"Suanne Roueche had a profound impact on the nation's community colleges," says Bumphus in an interview with Diverse. "There are so many community college professionals that benefited from her research and continue to do so today."

During her lifetime, Roueche maintained a rigorous and active research agenda, cranking out more than 60 articles and authoring, or co-authoring, 19 books.

An expert on the challenges that "at-risk" students face, she crisscrossed the nation, delivering lectures and workshops at more than 400 colleges and universities on a wide range of topics related to teaching and learning.

By the time the 1970s rolled around, she and Dr. John Edward Roueche became the "most prolific couple in America in terms of focusing on equity, and focusing on the advancement of leaders from underserved backgrounds by offering a pathway for what was possible," says Bumphus.

First encounter

John Roueche remembers the first time he met Suanne. She was in the hallway, herding students into her class at El Centra College in downtown Dallas, where she taught writing in the developmental studies program for nine years.

"The first time I visited one of her classrooms, she had a whole bunch of students sitting in the room with ankle bracelets on," remembers John, who is president of the Roueche Graduate Center at the National American University in Austin. "They were all released from the county jail."

Suanne--who earned a bachelor's and master's degree from North Texas State University--later enrolled in the Community College Leadership Program in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Texas at Austin.

Not long after she completed her doctorate, she and John tied the knot, becoming life-long partners and co-authors, publishing their first book together, titled Developmental Education: A Primer for Program Development and Education.

For the Roueches, their marriage and first professional collaboration began almost concurrently.

"The first year we were married, 1976, the [Southern Regional Education Board] was doing a big study in the South of what colleges were doing with students who needed remediation," John told Diverse in a 2012 interview. "And there had never been a study on that. I wrote the first book on remedial programs in 1968 when I was on the faculty at UCLA. So they asked us if we would take a look at what was happening with developmental ed, then write a report. So she and I took that project on, and that was our first collaboration as an author team. …

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