Farewell to a school teacher, Susan Turner Purvis | Arkansas Blog

Friday, July 17, 2015

Farewell to a school teacher, Susan Turner Purvis

Posted By on Fri, Jul 17, 2015 at 7:25 AM

click to enlarge screen_shot_2015-07-17_at_6.55.42_am.png
I must note the death in Atlanta yesterday of Susan Turner Purvis — friend, neighbor and teacher of my children. She suffered a stroke earlier in the week on a trip and passed peacefully in hospice care surrounded by family and wrapped in the prayers and fervent wishes of untold numbers of admirers.

A 1970 graduate of Hendrix College, she'd just retired after a career as an art teacher at Gibbs Magnet Elementary, where both my children benefitted from her skills. Our house is full of sculpture, paintings, Christmas ornaments and other beloved totems of childhood done under her instruction.

It is a sad irony — but a measure, too, of her vitality and thus the crush of her loss — that the most recent Little Rock School District newsletter recounted two items of interest about Purvis. She'd been selected to contribute an article to an encyclopedia of Southern culture on the artist Henry Sugimoto, a Japanese American who did important paintings during his internment in an Arkansas camp during World War II. It also recounted a gift of arts supplies to Gibbs by the Thea Foundation

In presenting the gift, Paul Leopoulos, Executive Director of the Thea Foundation, told the Gibbs student body that the most important thing about art was not about becoming an artist but about “learning to think.”

Mrs. Purvis expressed her gratitude to both the architects and the Foundation. “With this bequest, they have underscored their commitment to the arts for all children and have taught our children well about the importance of giving.”

Giving is exactly what Susan Purvis did.  Every day. I mean no disrespect to the many great teachers I know, but I always thought first of Susan Purvis each time one of the usual suspects went on a tear about the teaching profession — particularly those who are members, as Susan was, of the Little Rock Education Association.

Mastery of her subject didn't begin to tell the story. Nor did the awards perennially won by her students in the annual Arkansas Arts Center competition for mind-blowing assemblies in which everyone in the school had a part. (Anybody have a photo of one of these, such as the Ray Winder Field assembly; the circus; the Harlem Renaissance; the Clinton inaugural parade?) She observed no time clock. If supplies were lacking, she found them. That smile you see in the photo posted on Facebook by a friend was a permanent feature. She enfolded thousands of children in her kindness and grace. I can't shake a certain anger at her death. Too soon, for one thing. But it also reminds me of how people slur the teaching profession in this city. She was one of a kind, but she also was not alone. She was yet another one of those remarkable people who grew up in a place called Hope. I join all those mourning with Joe, Elizabeth, Benjamin and the rest of her family.

FOR THE ARTS: Paul Leopoulos presents gift to Susan Purvis in her last year at Gibbs.
  • FOR THE ARTS: Paul Leopoulos presents gift to Susan Purvis in her last year at Gibbs.

Tags: , , , , ,

From the ArkTimes store

Favorite

Comments (22)

Showing 1-22 of 22

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-22 of 22

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

Readers also liked…

  • Medical marijuana backers: Health Department opposition 'disingenuous' and 'cruel'

    Arkansans for Compassionate Care, the group behind the first medical marijuana initiative to qualify for the ballot, has responded sharply to yesterday's statement by the Arkansas Health Department that it opposes legal medical use of marijuana.
    • Jul 13, 2016
  • Speaking of the Clinton Foundation: Returns in maize and beans

    A reporter for Politifact, the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-checking organization, sent a reporter to Africa to see where money given to the Clinton Foundation has been put to work. He found tangible results.
    • Sep 6, 2016
  • A response to police arrests becomes a tutorial on race, class and policing in Little Rock

    John Walker, the 79-year-old civil rights lawyer, and his associate, Omavi Shukur, 29, a young lawyer devoted to criminal justice reform, talked to press this afternoon about their arrests Monday by Little Rock police for supposedly obstructing governmental operations in observing and attempting to film a routine police traffic stop. It was a tutorial on sharp views of race, class and governance in Little Rock.
    • Sep 29, 2016

People who saved…

Most Shared

  • In the margins

    A rediscovered violin concerto brings an oft-forgotten composer into the limelight.
  • Donald Trump is historically unpopular — and not necessarily where you think

    My colleagues John Ray and Jesse Bacon and I estimate, in the first analysis of its kind for the 2018 election season, that the president's waning popularity isn't limited to coastal cities and states. The erosion of his electoral coalition has spread to The Natural State, extending far beyond the college towns and urban centers that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. From El Dorado to Sherwood, Fayetteville to Hot Springs, the president's approval rating is waning.
  • Arkansans join House vote to gut Americans with Disabilities Act

    Despite fierce protests from disabled people, the U.S. House voted today, mostly on party lines, to make it harder to sue businesses for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. Of course Arkansas congressmen were on the wrong side.

Most Viewed

  • Another Trump propagandist from Arkansas gets blasted

    If Sarah Huckabee Sanders is Donald Trump's Baghdad Barbie, spouting implausible statements in support of her boss in the style of Saddam's Baghdad Bob, then let's make El Dorado native Hogan Gidley Baghdad Ken.

Most Recent Comments

 

© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation