Forch E. "F.E." Atkinson, director of instruction for the Las Cruces Public Schools from 1954 to 1973, passed away on June 30, 2007 in Las Cruces at the age of 97. Preceded in death by his wife of 64 years, Edith Marian Atkinson, and by his brother and two sisters, he is survived by his two sons, Charles and Richard, by his six grandchildren (Eyde Cowan and Eric, Eerin, Leah, Karen and David Atkinson), and six great-grandchildren (Shannon Cowan and Timothy, LeeAnn, Wesley, Amber and Azure Atkinson).
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F.E. was born March 26, 1910, in Lovelady, TX, to Holly and Lilly-Belle Lewis Atkinson. He graduated with first honors from Lovelady High School in 1926 and matriculated at Rust College in Rust, TX, receiving an associate of arts degree from there in 1928. After a year with the Missouri Pacific Railroad (Lovelady) as a clerk, F.E. became high-school principal, coach and 7th-grade teacher at Weldon, TX, in 1929. This was followed by positions as principal in Center (1931) and Arbor Grove County Schools, TX, (1933), where he taught all subjects in the high school in addition to working toward a bachelor's degree. In 1937, upon receipt of his B.A. in education from Sam Houston State Teacher's College in Huntsville, TX, he returned to Lovelady as elementary-school principal and teacher of Spanish in the high school. He left Lovelady in 1938 to assume a position as elementary-school principal in Sealy, TX, where he met his future wife, Edith Dodge. The two were married in 1940. Their two children, Charles and Richard, were born in 1941 and '42.
In 1941, F.E. left teaching and school administration temporarily to go into professional Boy Scout work. His first position was a field executive in the White Mountain District of New Mexico, a district that included Carlsbad, Artesia and Roswell. After serving with the U.S. Army in Europe from December 1944 to the end of WWII in 1945, he returned to a position as Boy Scout field executive in Tucumcari, NM. The call of teaching and school administration proved too strong to resist, however, and in 1947 he left the Boy Scouts to become principal of Tucumcari Junior High School. The curriculum and guidance programs he developed for TJHS became his master's thesis at Sam Houston State Teacher's College, where he received an M.A. in Educational Administration in 1948. In 1954 he came to Las Cruces as director of instruction in the Las Cruces Public Schools, a position in which he remained until his retirement in 1973.
In his position as director of instruction, Atkinson wrote, "A Philosophy of Education for the Las Cruces Public Schools." He established a system-wide reading program for the elementary schools and introduced enriched/accelerated programs in English, mathematics and science for Las Cruces High School. His paper "The Position of Director of Instruction in the Public Schools of the State of New Mexico" became his thesis for the degree of educational specialist, which he completed at New Mexico State University in 1959. He was a longtime member of ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development), and was elected to membership in the Education Hall of Fame in 1972.
In addition to his professional work in education and scouting, F.E. was active in Kiwanis Clubs International and in the Masonic Lodge. He became a lieutenant governor of Kiwanis in 1959. After having taken both the Scottish Rite (1952) and the York Rite (1957) in the Order of Masons, he served as master of Jornado Masonic Lodge in 1960. He and his wife, Edith, were members of the First Methodist Church in Las Cruces.
F.E. will lie in state, today, July 2, 2007 from 1 to 8 p.m. with visitation from 6 to 8 p.m. at Graham's Mortuary. Services will take place Tuesday, July 3, 2007 at 3:30 p.m. at Graham's Mortuary Chapel with Rev. Carrol Blevins. Interment to follow at Hillcrest Memorial Gardens Cemetery. To express condolences please visit GrahamMortuary.com.
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555 West Amador
Las Cruces, NM 88005
Published in Las Cruces Sun-News on July 2, 2007