EvCC engineering teacher helped foreign students thrive

Richard “Dick” Prouty, 89, was a role model, community supporter and half of “Dick and Shirley.”

Dick Prouty

Dick Prouty

ARLINGTON — He was an engineering professor, Christmas tree farmer and Korean War veteran.

Whatever Richard “Dick” Prouty did, he did with others in mind.

At Everett Community College, he helped foreign students to adjust and to thrive. He opened his home to them and their families.

To most people who knew him, the tall, genial guy in the crimson red sweater was Dick, one half of Dick and Shirley.

“We’ve been accused of being fused at the hip,” said Shirley, his wife of 65 years.

Prouty died Jan. 9. He was 89.

A celebration of life is planned for 1 p.m. Saturday at Faith Lutheran Church, 1424 172nd St. NE, in Marysville.

Prouty’s passion was teaching. He dedicated 37 years training mechanical and civil engineers, the last 16 years at EvCC.

“He had such a gift for connecting with students and staff. I never heard him utter an unkind word in all the years he was here,” said John Olson, EvCC’s vice president of college advancement. “He was innovative, creative and forward-thinking.”

The same might be said about Prouty’s dad, a dairy bacteriologist for Washington State University who helped develop the canned Cougar Gold cheese at the WSU Creamery.

Prouty studied mechanical engineering at WSU. That’s where he met Shirley Andrews, a home economics major. They ran in the same circle of friends in a Methodist youth group.

“Dick wasn’t especially into sports, nor was I,” Shirley said. “We both had to have a class that fulfilled that requirement for PE. So we took square dancing. I was in the As, with the last name of Andrews, and he was in the Ps with the boys alphabetical, clear across, so if we wanted to dance together we had to make a beeline diagonally.”

When he went overseas in 1952 to serve in the Korean War as a first lieutenant, they exchanged letters. Not steamy love letters.

“It was just letters of activities,” she said. “He would write letters of his activities.”

Things heated up when he got back in early 1954. They made a beeline to the altar later that year.

In 1962, he earned a master’s degree at the University of Washington, where he taught engineering for seven years. He taught 14 years at Shoreline Community College before joining the EvCC faculty.

Richard “Dick” Prouty served 1952-54 in the Korean War.

Richard “Dick” Prouty served 1952-54 in the Korean War.

The family moved from Kirkland to a 40-plus acre Arlington farm in 1973.

“It was a pastoral setting with a view of the mountains,” said Shirley, a longtime 4-H leader. “We wanted a slower pace.”

They raised five children and grew hundreds of Christmas trees that they sold and gave away. Over the years, they built four houses, doing much of the work themselves.

“Both of my parents would do it, fix it, make it, learn it, grow it, use it, recycle it,” said Sue Robertson, their daughter.

His ingenuity extended to the classroom, where he taught by example.

Serbian exchange student Radomir Milosvljevic lived with the Proutys while at EvCC. He went on to become an engineer with the Port of Seattle.

Dick and Shirley are “Grandpa and Grandma” to April Luangrath Garbusjuk, whose father was a student of Prouty’s at EvCC. She was a toddler when her family came to Washington in the early 1980s from a refugee camp in Thailand. They’d fled by boat from Laos.

“They took us under their wing,” Garbusjuk said. “They dedicated so much time to us and gave their love so freely.”

It was difficult being an immigrant and speaking little or no English in the early 1980s, she said.

“They taught my mom how to cook American food,” Garbusjuk said. “They did so many little things to help us assimilate, and at the same time also really soaking in our cultural things. It was never a one-way street.”

The couple would come to her extended-family gatherings, fitting in with ease despite being the only people who didn’t fluently speak Laotian, although they did learn basic words.

Prouty was director of the state’s Science Olympiad, a competition for middle and high school students. For 20 years, he and Shirley organized state events and participated in meets nationwide. They explored the country in a Dutch Star motorhome, logging more than 125,000 miles.

They were active in the Stillaguamish Valley Pioneer Association. Shirley received the 2019 Mayor’s Volunteer Award.

“They are faithful, diligent volunteers,” Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert said. “Dick had a fantastic knowledge of the community. He was always so kind and generous with his time.”

Dick and Shirley Prouty

Dick and Shirley Prouty

Prouty started slowing down in June.

“He didn’t have energy and it just kept getting worse,” Shirley said. “The two of us had this little game. He was always the keeper of the car keys. Every once in a while he’d hold them up and say, ‘You get them today,’ which meant he didn’t feel like driving.”

In June, he drove Shirley to a wedding in Issaquah that was at the top of a hill with hairpin curves.

His health declined following a stroke in December.

Prouty is survived by Shirley, daughter Sue Robertson, sons Keith, Allen and Jim, 10 grandchildren, 12 great-grandchildren and brother-in-law Arnold Andrews. Another daughter, Janice Goehrs, died in 1996.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Everett Community College Foundation for scholarship purposes.

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter: @reporterbrown.

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