Remembering Graceland Legends

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Horizons - Fall 2017

September 21, 2017

Velma Ruch
R E M E M B E R I N G
Graceland Legend:
Velma Ruch

Dr. Velma Ruch, longtime Graceland faculty member and Graceland legend passed away July 20, 2017. Born in Lamoni, Iowa, on Jan. 28, 1921, both of her parents were enrolled as Graceland students when she was born. She returned as a student herself in 1939 and graduated in 1941 with the Gold Seal for scholarship.

She completed her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of iowa in 1943, and at the invitation of Acting President A. R. Gilbert, Velma joined Graceland’s English faculty in 1946. She completed her master’s degree in 1947 at the University of Michigan and her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin (majoring in English and minoring in Scandinavian studies) in 1957.

A 40-year faculty member, Ruch’s influence on Graceland and hundreds of students cannot be measured. She became the first woman on Graceland’s faculty to hold a PhD, was chair of the Division of Language and Literature, and was the first woman to lead the college when on July 1, 1974, she stepped in as acting president for a year. Ruch retired in 1986 as Graceland’s first distinguished professor emerita and chose to devote her post-Graceland years to work with the Community of Christ.

Young Velma RuchRuch was awarded a Fulbright grant to study in India for eight weeks. This was the result of a course she initiated at Graceland called Religion in the World’s Great Literature, one she considered her signature course at Graceland. The course later provided the foundation for her book, “Signature of God,” published in 1986.

An accomplished author, Ruch compiled and edited a new Norwegian hymn book, “De Helliges Salmer” (Hymns of the Saints). She later wrote “The Signature of God,” “The Transforming Power of Prayer” and two volumes of Summoned to Pilgrimage. Then, at the age of 84, she wrote another book published by Herald House under the title, “We Journey with Christ: Lenten and Easter Meditation.” She went on to write “Transformation: A New Creation in Christ” and, finally, “Finding Home: The Hospitality of God, Meditations for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany.” All three books were written and published in 2006.

A profoundly devoted member of the Community of Christ, she described her devotion as the “joy of her life.” Dr. Ruch continues to inspire through generations of students’ memories, as well as her authored books. She was a worthy example of one who devoted herself to seek wisdom “by study and also by faith.”

 


R E M E M B E R I N G
Graceland Legend:
Nancy Wallace

Nancy WallaceNancy Wallace came to Graceland College from Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1970. She is a member of the class of 1974 and has filled the hearts of many who have also come to “the Hill” with kindness, friendship and inspiration. 

Wallace obtained her master’s degree in social work from the University of Iowa, which prepared her for a career in counseling and teaching. She worked for Graceland for over 30 years – as an academic advisor, career counselor, professor and as alumni director. Her dedication and service to the university was remarkable. After retiring from Graceland, Wallace continued to teach part time but also had time to enjoy antiques, furniture and gardening.

Wallace was known for laughter and sparkle as well as her ability to sincerely listen. When friends and family gathered in Lamoni in October to celebrate her life, Michael Lewis ’90 shared these beautiful words of his dear friend.

Nancy Wallace - small“In the lush symphony that was Nancy’s life, she was sometimes the piccolo, dancing like a lambent fairy about the score. She was sometimes the rich, intimate voice of a viola or an oboe, sharing her deepest joys and woes with authenticity and risk. And when she was at her very best, when the symphony got to its most intense and austere, Nancy was a cowbell, clanging and banging along with no concern for the score except she knew it needed her bell. Because her music was her own, and if you didn’t like it, you most likely had wandered into the wrong recital.”

“Her approach was peace through mischief, and she was Ghandi-like in the generous blessings of mischief she bestowed upon the world …The life that was Nancy moves back now into star-shine and firecracker, living as it always did as a throbbing continuous beat within the cosmos of energy that enwraps us all.”

 

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