Huntington, Ind.—Marjorie Pauline (Borton) Roush, or “Polly” as she was so fondly known, passed away today at the age of 86. An integral part of Huntington University, Roush served as a member of the Huntington College Women’s Auxiliary and on the boards of directors for the Huntington College Foundation and alumni organization.
Her husband, J. Edward Roush, served as a U.S. Representative for 16 years and was known as the father of the nationwide 911 emergency system. He passed away on March 26, 2004, at age 83.
“Polly Roush’s impact on Huntington University cannot be overstated,” said Dr. G. Blair Dowden, president of the university. “She was a trusted friend, a wise advisor and an ardent supporter. She will be greatly missed.”
Polly Roush with her husband, J. Edward Roush, when he was recognized with the Huntington College Distinguished Alumni Citation in 1988
In 2001, the university recognized Roush with an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree for her longtime volunteerism both to the college and the community. She was among 100 notable individuals who were selected to receive the Huntington College Centennial Medallion in 1997.
Roush was active in the Huntington College Auxiliary for more than 50 years in a variety of roles including president, secretary and chairwoman of the ways and means committee. “I don’t think there’s any position she didn’t serve,” said Ruth Weber, secretary of the auxiliary.
“Over the past 60 plus years, I’ve known Polly first as a student at Huntington College and then as a friend, neighbor and colleague,” Weber said. “She was always a very fun-loving, resourceful, hard-working, talented person. She gave herself untiringly to the work of her church, Huntington University, and in support of her family. Polly has been a loyal supporter of the Huntington University Auxiliary since I’ve known her. Her contagious smile and encouraging comments will be greatly missed by all who knew her.”
J. Edward and Polly Roush lead supporters on a campaign walk in 1968.
As a member of the Huntington College Foundation board of directors, Roush emphasized the importance of scholarships. She and her husband established the J. Edward and Polly Roush Family Scholarship for Huntington County residents attending Huntington University.
“As a board, we are each leading the way by contributing to the foundation’s scholarship fund before we ask others to join us,” she said in a 1997 interview. “We also are stressing the importance of having a great college in our community and the benefits it brings to all of us living here. I graduated from Huntington College and know what it is to have high-quality professors and administrators, and to learn in an institution that enlarges students’ faith in God and in themselves, and also requires high academic scholarship.”
In addition to her involvement in university organizations, Roush assisted her husband when he served the college as interim president.
“Ed and Polly Roush shared the responsibility of presiding over campus activities from July 1 through Dec. 3, 1989,” said Dr. Eugene Habecker, who served as the Huntington’s president from 1981-1991. “They did a tremendous job providing the college community with caring Christian leadership while Marylou and I were on sabbatical.”
Huntington University is filled with signs of Roush’s influence. She was instrumental in selecting the furniture for Habecker Dining Commons and the flowers on the building’s balcony. When Perimeter Road was constructed, it was curved to preserve many of the trees at Roush’s request. A framed print of the Pierre August Renoir painting “Picking Flowers” hangs in the Roush Hall lobby in her honor, recognizing her love of nature. The print was purchased by the Huntington College Women’s Auxiliary in 1998.
“Polly’s wit, wisdom and love of nature impacted me and so many others,” said Chris Dowden, first lady of Huntington University. “I loved hearing her tree-climbing stories from her growing-up years on the farm, anecdotes from the campaign trail and priceless family memories from escapades in Washington, D.C. She lived an incredible life as wife, mother, teacher, community leader and valued friend. Her insights, helpful ways, exuberance, energy, and delight in God’s creation will be greatly missed.”
In addition to nature, Roush also loved music. In 1940, she was certified as a singing evangelist by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. The same year, she enrolled at Huntington College and was active in the Zetalethean Literary Society and college musical groups. Roush extended her gifts of music, hospitality and service to the larger community as a leader and participant in the choir, Evening Missionary Society, and Bible School at College Park Church of the United Brethren in Christ.
“She was a musical lady who could take even the older choruses and make other people enjoy singing them,” said the Rev. Ray Seilhamer, who served as Roush’s pastor for 13 years. “She would do that with members of the House of Representatives and people in the Senate. She would just delight in having an opportunity to make music with people at church and educational events.”
Roush had a passion for education. She graduated from Huntington College in 1946 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and later earned a master’s degree in elementary education from Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. She also studied at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Much of Roush’s career was spent in the classroom as a biology teacher at Bloomington Laboratory High School and as a first grade teacher at Lancaster Elementary School in Huntington County.
“Her classes were always filled with such creativity,” Seilhamer said. As further evidence of Roush’s creativity, she was granted a patent in 1972 for a student study carrel.
In a 1990 edition of the Huntington County Community School Corporation newsletter, Roush offered advice to brand new teachers. “Have and display enthusiasm for your profession,” she said. “Strive for good communication with your colleagues and parents of your students. Remember that your principals and colleagues are on your team. They have experience and will be helpful to you in countless ways.”
An energetic campaigner, Roush faithfully supported her husband’s public service, helping him to balance the competing demands of home, family, career and nation. The Roushes were married for 60 years and had three sons, David, Joel and Robin, and one daughter, Melody (Roush) Wright.
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