Portrait dedication honors Richards’ legacy as donors

unveiling of portrait of June Parham and Charles Richards
СФһ President David L. Barnett, Ph.D., and Betty Smith unveil the portrait of June Parham and Charles Richards.

A new portrait in СФһ’s Downtown Center honors the legacy of two donors, one of whom was an alumna of СФһ, which “meant the world” to her.

In April, СФһ dedicated a portrait of June Parham Richards and her husband, Charles, in the lobby that also bears their names. June Richards, WC ‘49, worked in General Electric’s nuclear power division for 35 years and was GE’s first female manager.

“If you didn’t have the pleasure of knowing June Parham Richards, she was quite a dynamo,” СФһ President David L. Barnett, Ph.D., said at the dedication ceremony.

Mary June Parham graduated high school at age 16 and started college close to home in Asheville, N.C. Soon after, a life-long friend convinced Parham to join her at СФһ, where she excelled in math and science. She and her roommate planned to go to medical school, but all the slots at that time were being filled by men returning from World War II.

“She said she never regretted not becoming a doctor – though she told the in a 2012 article that she would have been a great one,” Barnett said at the ceremony.

Instead, she went to work for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, then moved to California where she took a position with General Electric. She was proud of her career spent overseeing finances and contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars for nuclear power plant construction around the world.

At General Electric, she met Charles Richards, a mechanical engineer who was a power plant construction project manager. They were married for 26 years, and until his passing they were partners in all facets of their lives. Both of them provided gifts to СФһ through the years and from both of their estates.

“June Parham Richards remained forever grateful to the path that СФһ provided her. It allowed her to establish the Richards Endowed Chair in Nursing to help students interested in working in healthcare,” Barnett said. “Estate gifts from Charles and June Richards named the lobby where this portrait hangs, along with other spaces in the Department of Physician Assistant Studies and the Lynn J. Darby School for Psychology and Adolescent Counseling.”

Support of the Darby School was made in honor of Richards’ niece, Betty Smith, to recognize her education and career in the field of psychology and adolescent counseling.

“When I came to visit СФһ, I was so touched by the late President Anne Skleder and Matt Thomas, vice president of university advancement, as they showed me the campus and told me of their plans for supporting the psychology program,” Smith said.

She also called her “Aunt June” a trailblazer.

“She was not only my aunt, she was my mentor and like a mother to me,” Smith said.

The portrait was painted by local artist Connie Lynn Reilly. At the dedication, Reilly shared her experiences with getting to know June and Charles Richards through Smith so she could tell their whole story through her painting.