Jocelyne M. Couture-Nowak (February 17, 1958 – April 16, 2007) was an instructor of French in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia and was the only Canadian victim of the Virginia Tech shooting. She was a native of Canada, and while residing in Truro, Nova Scotia, she co-founded the first Francophone school in the region.
Jocelyne M. Couture
February 17, 1958
|Died||April 16, 2007 (aged 49)|
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.
|Alma mater||Nova Scotia Teachers College (Truro), Saint Mary's University (Halifax)|
|Institutions||Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Virginia Tech|
Life and careerEdit
Couture initially worked at a newly opened daycare operated by the Yarmouth Boys and Girls Club. She began to pursue her teaching career at the Nova Scotia Teachers College in Truro. She graduated in 1989 then obtained a degree from St. Mary's University in Halifax in the early 1990s. While living in Truro, Couture worked as a French instructor in the Humanities Department at Nova Scotia Agricultural College (NSAC). She married Jerzy Nowak, an instructor in the Horticulture Department at NSAC. Couture-Nowak had two daughters, Sylvie and Francine.
With two other local Francophone parents, Couture-Nowak established the École acadienne de Truro, the first French language public school for central Nova Scotia in September, 1997. Operated by the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial, the École acadienne de Truro has grown from 36 students in 1997 to 118 students in grades Primary through 10. The school's first class of seniors graduated in 2006.
In 2001, Couture-Nowak and her husband moved their family to Blacksburg, Virginia, where her husband had accepted a position as Professor and Head of the Department of Horticulture at Virginia Tech. Couture-Nowak accepted a position as an Instructor of French in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature. Throughout her life Couture-Nowak described herself as being a proud French-Canadian.
Couture-Nowak was teaching an Intermediate French class in Room 211 at Norris Hall on the morning of April 16, 2007 when she was killed by Seung-Hui Cho as one of the 32 victims in the Virginia Tech shooting. Couture-Nowak, one of the first to be shot in Norris 211, was 49 years old when she died.
Upon hearing gunfire nearby, just before Cho arrived at Norris 211, Couture-Nowak attempted to barricade the classroom door with the help of a student and ushered her students to the back of the class for their safety while 911 was called. The attempt at barricading the door proved unsuccessful. Couture-Nowak and 11 of the 22 registered students died. Couture-Nowak died in front of the door and next to the teacher's desk.
In speeches given in the Canadian parliament shortly after the shooting, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Opposition leader Stéphane Dion made special mention of Couture-Nowak. Nova Scotian Premier Rodney MacDonald also made special mention of Couture-Nowak, and in particular spoke of her contribution to the francophone community with her key role in the development of École acadienne in Truro.
Virginia Tech named her an Honorary Distinguished Instructor and the Virginia Tech Foundation established the Jocelyne Couture-Nowak Scholarship, awarded to French majors annually. Nova Scotia Agricultural College also established a bursary in her name.
Jocelyne Couture-Nowak was remembered by her former French students that she taught at the all girls boarding school, Chatham Hall located in Chatham, Virginia by a candlelight vigil.
In May 2008, Virginia Tech named Couture-Nowak's widower, Jerzy Nowak, as the founding director of its newly created Center for Peace Studies and Violence Prevention. He served as its director for three years, until his retirement from the university.
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