‘Mrs. Africa U.’ Nancy Mikell Carruth dies

The Africa University family is mourning the loss of Nancy Mikell Carruth, 84, who passed away April 1 in Bunkie, La.

Carruth, an inaugural member of the United Methodist-related university's advisory development committee and planned giving council, was affectionately known to many as "Mrs. Africa University."

"She worked to realize a dream which is destined to change the face of leadership in Africa from now until eternity," said Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area.

Carruth was present in October 1984 when Bishop Emilio De Carvalho of Angola and Bishop Arthur Kulah of Liberia made their historic appeals for The United Methodist Church to establish a university on the continent of Africa. Carruth became an impassioned advocate for the establishment of the new university.

As chair of the Division of Higher Education of the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, Carruth became a key proponent of the Africa Initiative, supporting African bishops and church leaders. She traveled to Liberia and Zimbabwe as part of the site-selection committee to investigate possible locations as well as infrastructural and civic support for the proposed university. It was Carruth who presented the formal proposal to found and support Africa University to the 1988 United Methodist General Conference in St. Louis.

'She did all within her power'

"The world needs visionaries and Carruth was one of those persons who caught the vision after hearing about the need," said James Salley, associate vice chancellor for institutional advancement at Africa University. "She did all within her power to help that vision to unfold and to help others to get caught up in the vision by serving."

"One cannot talk about the history of Africa University and fail to mention Nancy Carruth," said Angella Current-Felder, a fellow development committee member and author of the new book "The School of Dreams in the Valley of Hope: The Africa University Story."

"It is with deep sadness that we hear of the passing of this great woman," said Councilor Oswald Natu Tweh, a member of the Africa University Board of Directors from Liberia. "Indeed, Africa University has lost a cherished friend, advocate and leader."

Gifts to the university

In addition to steadfastly telling the story of the success of the school and its ministry over the past 20 years, Carruth endowed a scholarship at Africa University. Most recently, she made a gift to the university designated for the construction of a staff house in honor of The Rev. F. Thomas Trotter, who was top staff executive of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry during the planning and birthing of Africa University. That house is under construction on the university campus.

First elected to the Board of Higher Education and Ministry in 1980, Carruth became president of the Division of Higher Education in 1984. Africa University honored her with induction into the Vice Chancellor's Club at the Chiremba level in 1992; and in 2001, she was inducted as an inaugural member of the Richard E. "Dick" Reeves Legacy Society. Both honors recognized the foundational nature of her contributions to Africa University. Carruth was also a life member of the Africa University Honorary Alumni Association.

Carruth served in numerous leadership roles within the United Methodist connection, including that of editor of the Louisiana Annual (regional) Conference United Methodist Women newspaper for 22 years. Her trusteeships have included service with Bunkie General Hospital, the World Methodist Council, the Louisiana Conference Board of Higher Education, Perkins School of Theology, Centenary College and the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana.

Centenary College awarded her an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1982 and she received the Asbury Award from the Board of Higher Education and Ministry in 2001.

In 2005, Carruth established a charitable gift annuity through the United Methodist Foundation of Louisiana to benefit her church in perpetuity. She was awarded the Jesse B. Stanford Award by the Foundation in recognition of her stewardship and philanthropic spirit in 2006.

Carruth, who was born in December 1927 in Alexandria, La., is survived by her son, William M. Tebow and wife, Joan, of Bunkie; her daughter, Donna T. Taylor and husband, Wayne Taylor, of Dallas; as well as four grandchildren - Bryan Taylor and wife, Georgia; Andrew Taylor and wife, Pamela; Katie T. Warren and husband, Brian; and Celeste Tebow, and five great grandchildren.

Services for Nancy Carruth will be Thursday, April 5, at 11 a.m. at David Haas Memorial United Methodist Church, 210 West Church Street in Bunkie. Condolences may be sent to Bill Tebow, P.O. Box 671, Bunkie, La. 71322-0671.

Memorials may be directed to David Haas Memorial United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 680, Bunkie, La. 71322 or Centenary College Choir, Centenary College, 2911 Centenary Blvd., Shreveport, La. 71104.

*Stevens works in the Africa University Development Office, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Joey Butler, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].


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