Martha Street Culp - 2001 Honorary Alumni
Every person has a story to tell. The
chronicle of this honorary alumna's life has touched many at East
Tennessee State University and throughout the region. Martha Street Culp
was first lady of ETSU from 1968 to 1977, while her husband Dr. Delos
P. Culp served as the university's fourth president. However, this story
is not about her years on campus; this is the tale of a woman who is
known for her unstoppable enthusiasm, commitment to education, and most
of all her love for her family and friends that shines as an example to
She was born on November 4, 1915, in a rural
mountain area near Gadsden, Ala. She was the oldest of 10 children of
Alonzo and Mattie Street. The depression years were hard for the Street
family, but she had dreams of attending medical school and helping those
that were in need. That desire to help others would remain a motto in
Mrs. Culp's life.
In 1932, at the age of 16, she
graduated from Glencoe High School, but there was no hope of her
attending medical school. So she entered Jacksonville State University
and studied education. That is where she met her sweetheart for life,
Delos P. Culp. The couple married on December 23, 1934.
Mrs. Culp notes they taught school
each year and went to summer school at Auburn until they graduated. She
actually began educating youngsters at the age of 17. At first she
taught at a three-teacher school, but after marrying Dr. Culp, she moved
to his hometown in central Alabama and began teaching at a one-teacher
school. The couple then moved to the southern part of the state where
she taught special education and first grade. Dr. Culp moved fast
through the ranks and was elected superintendent as Mrs. Culp followed
and served as a secretary/bookkeeper.
Known for her kindness, her heart
longed to help children with disabilities. She brought children who were
disturbed or physically handicapped into her home and gave private
lessons. Mrs. Culp also helped organize groups for handicapped aid while
working to pass laws for those who are physically challenged. Her work
with children became very important to her, and she remained involved in
this for the rest of her career in education.
When Dr. Culp retired from East
Tennessee State University, Mrs. Culp began a new career in real estate.
To no one's surprise she excelled in this field and even expanded the
business to buying small homes, renovating them, and selling them for a
profit. She decided to keep some of the homes she purchased and rent
them to Quillen College of Medicine students at low prices.
Besides her professional interests,
Mrs. Culp is known for her varied personal avocations that include
painting, writing, quilting, playing mountain music on a saw,
cross-pollinating thousands of daylilies, and traveling. She has also
been a member of numerous civic organizations and state boards.
Mrs. Culp has three children, Dr. Jean
Culp Flanigan '79, Associate Director of University Libraries at ETSU;
James D. Culp, JD '73 '78, former City Attorney for the City of Johnson
City, and Dr. John S. Culp '76, Associate Professor, ETSU Department of
Family Medicine. She is also the proud grandmother of six.