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Compiled by Richards’ friend and colleague David Setzer
An icon in the history of Catawba College has passed from the scene. Marion M. “Chub” Richards ‘41, who ably served his alma mater in a variety of staff and faculty positions over 38 years, died Tuesday, December 7, at his home in Salisbury. He was 85 and had been ill for several months.
Surviving are his wife of 61 years, the former Elaine Delozier ‘42; two children, Charles Dean Richards of Charlotte, N.C. and Rebecca Richards Ament of Worthington, Ohio; three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
It was a long way from Mill Creek High School and Altoona, Pa., but Richards made the journey in the fall of 1937, coming to Catawba College to play football for Coach Gordon Kirkland. He would later begin his coaching career as a member of Kirkland’s staff, but first he earned his stripes in the football trenches as a lineman, prompting some rival coaches to say that he and late team-mate Jake Briggs of Lexington formed “the best guard tandem in small college football.”
Richards graduated cum laude in 1941 and took a teaching job with the Salisbury City Schools at Wiley Elementary School. After two years, he transferred to the Boyden High School in Salisbury where he taught and coached in 1943-45. During 1945-46 he went the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to earn a master’s degree in physical education, returning to his alma mater in 1946 as a member of the physical education department staff and assistant football coach.
In the interim he made another major life decision. He and fellow Pennsylvanian and Catawba graduate Elaine Delozier, class of 1942, married following her graduation. Trained in elementary education, Mrs. Richards also began her career in a Salisbury City Schools classroom , retiring in 1980.
As soon as Richards returned to Salisbury and Catawba following graduate work at UNC-Chapel Hill, he joined the Salisbury Civitan Club, a decision that would also be a momentous one for his life and career, as it launched a series of allegiances and activities that would take him to the international stage as president of Civitan International in 1974-75.
Meanwhile, his career at Catawba involved football and baseball coaching and teaching classes in the physical education department. In 1954, he was named Director of Physical Education and continued as line coach for the football team.
Continuing his Civitan affiliation, Richards served the Salisbury club as secretary, member of the board, vice-president, and president. In 1951, he was selected as the outstanding secretary in the North Carolina District. He went on to be named outstanding lieutenant governor in the North Carolina District 1959-60, outstanding Civitan in Zone 6 in 1961, chairman of the district contest and awards committee 1958-59, chairman of the district committee for Civitan education 1962-63, and became governor of the North Carolina District in 1964-65.
Richards was also a devoted churchman, worshipping with his family at Salisbury’s First United Church of Christ and serving in a number of congregational posts, including elder, consistory president, and Sunday School teacher. He also served on the board of directors of the denomination’s retirement home in Newton, NC.
Known affectionately as “Chub” and “Coach” for years, Richards continued to advance in his Catawba career, making a major change in 1960, when he was named Director of Admissions; in 1968, the duties of Registrar were added. He left the admissions post in 1979 and assumed responsibilities for career planning and placement, remaining registrar.
Richards also served as chairman of the commencement committee 1954-83, was College Marshal 1964-83, and briefly served as assistant dean of the college 1967-68.
While he wore many hats during his Catawba days, Richards held one thing firmly in his grasp—the desire to do anything he undertook in a “first class” manner. “I want to do a first class job, or we just won’t do it,” he said to many times to staff associates.
Richards earned a number of honors and awards along the way in his Civitan career, but the highlight was his elevation to International President in 1974. During his year of service in the top post, he and wife Elaine traveled extensively including a trip to the Far East which marked the first time an international president had visited that part of the world. While in Japan, Richards chartered the country’s first Civitan Club. During his visit to South Korea, he chartered that nation’s seventh club at Kyung Hee University where Richards was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree.
During his tenure as international president, Richards was honored by N.C. Governor James E. Holshouser, Jr. with induction into the Order of the Long Leaf Pine and by proclaiming a day in his honor—Tuesday, July 16, 1974.
Politics also played a role in Richards’ off-campus life. He successfully ran for Salisbury City Council in 1979 and served two terms, deciding against a reelection try in 1983.
In other civic activities, Richards served on the board of directors of the Salisbury-Rowan Community Service Council, and the Chamber of Commerce, chairing the Chamber’s education committee.
Richards’ career at Catawba came to a close on June 30, 1984 when he retired after 38 years of service.
Catawba College has recognized Richards for his service, and his love, over the years. In 1974, he was given the O.B. Michael Distinguished Alumnus Award; the Trustees Award for Outstanding Service in 1979; elected to the College’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1982; honored at the 1997 Service of Praise & Thanksgiving for having lived a life of “exemplary service;” and in 2001 received the Adrian L. Shuford Award for Distinguished Service.
At Homecoming in 1995, Richards and his late friend and colleague Earl B. Ruth were honored with the naming of the Ruth-Richards House on the Catawba campus. The facility serves as offices for members of the athletic department. Earlier in their careers, Richards and Ruth had lived in the duplex with their families.
The Salisbury Civitan Club has also honored Richards at Catawba with the establishment of the “Chub” Richards/Salisbury Civitan Club Endowed Scholarship in 1997, and named him as its “Good Samaritan of 2004” last April.
In addition to his volunteer service at Rowan Regional Medical Center, he assisted with Meals on Wheels, Special Olympics, and with his beloved Catawba. He assisted with its recent capital campaign, served on its committee for renovation of the football stadium, and on its board of the Chiefs Club.
His has been a life lived with dignity and respect for others; of many jobs well done; of tasks attempted and completed with honesty and integrity; with the respect, love and support of family, friends and colleagues near and far.
Memorials should be directed to Catawba College and the Salisbury Civitan Club Foundation.