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Althea Cousins, longtime high school teacher, counselor, and administrator, dies at 88

In a brief autobiography, she wrote, “She gratefully enjoyed life to the fullest and followed her motto: Don’t miss the moment.”

Dr. Cousins held a variety of important jobs with the School District of Philadelphia over her long career.
Dr. Cousins held a variety of important jobs with the School District of Philadelphia over her long career.Read moreCourtesy of the Family

Althea Cousins, 88, of Wynnefield, a longtime teacher, principal, and administrator for the School District of Philadelphia, died Saturday, Oct. 9, of cardiovascular disease at home.

An enthusiastic lifetime contributor to educational, civic, and social causes, Dr. Cousins played important roles for several local and national organizations, and spoke out passionately about such issues as school truancy, teen pregnancy, college admissions, and foster parenting.

In 1979, regarding truancy, she told the Daily News, “Once the school is made aware that the parent is concerned, that’s the first step toward a remedy. Sometimes the school is not aware the child is absent for an illegitimate reason.”

During her 49-year career with the school district, from 1953-2002, Dr. Cousins taught elementary and junior high school students, and served as a school counselor, principal, assistant principal, administrative assistant in the district office, and director of pupil personnel.

She proved so valuable to district leaders that, even after she retired, they beseeched her to return several times, once as interim principal at E.M. Stanton Elementary School, which she attended as a child.

Of course, she consented.

“They loved her,” said her daughter Karen Cousins-Washington, “and she loved her work.”

Also an adjunct professor at West Chester, Eastern, Villanova, and Antioch Universities, Dr. Cousins earned a bachelor’s degree from Fisk University, and master’s degrees from Columbia University in counseling, and Temple University in educational administration.

She attended classes at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Rhode Island, and received a doctorate in educational administration from Walden University.

Dedicated to her church since childhood, Dr. Cousins was active at Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church in Philadelphia, and was a founding member and one-time president of the Wesley A.M.E. Zion Federal Credit Union. Later, she and her husband, Carl Cousins, a pioneer in veterinary work, joined the Zion Baptist Church of Ardmore.

She also was active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., National Smart Set Inc., Carrousels Inc., the Links Inc., the Center for Positive Aging in Lower Merion, the Presbyterian Children’s Village, the National Association of Pupil Personnel Services Administrators, the Philadelphia Association of School Administrators, and others.

Born Nov. 5, 1932, in New York, Dr. Cousins and her family moved to Philadelphia when she was an infant and lived with her father’s relatives. She remained with her great-aunt and great-uncle when the family returned to New York three years later, and graduated from the Philadelphia High School for Girls in 1950.

She married her husband in 1962, and they had daughters Kimberly and Karen. They lived in Rosemont for nearly 40 years, and later moved to Wynnefield. He died in 2016.

Sophisticated, sociable, and stylish, Dr. Cousins, known by many as Terri, called herself a “people person.” She traveled with family and friends to every continent but Australia, and returned to the Bahamas as often as possible. She liked to play cards with friends, read, and solve crossword puzzles.

She doted on her four grandchildren, and wrote in a brief autobiography, “Nothing pleased Nana more than to spoil her grands.” She wanted to be remembered, she wrote, as a “loving wife, mother, grandmother, sister, mentor, and friend.”

“She was very loving and supportive, and a great counselor as a mother,” daughter Karen said.

In addition to her daughters and grandchildren, Dr. Cousins is survived by a brother, and other relatives.

Services were held Oct. 18. She was interred next to her husband at Washington Crossing National Cemetery.