Martha Street Culp
2001 Honorary Alumni
Every person has a story to tell. The chronicle of this honorary alumna's life has touched many at East Tennessee State University and throughout the region. Martha Street Culp was first lady of ETSU from 1968 to 1977, while her husband Dr. Delos P. Culp served as the university's fourth president. However, this story is not about her years on campus; this is the tale of a woman who is known for her unstoppable enthusiasm, commitment to education, and most of all her love for her family and friends that shines as an example to us all.
She was born on November 4, 1915, in a rural mountain area near Gadsden, Ala. She was the oldest of 10 children of Alonzo and Mattie Street. The depression years were hard for the Street family, but she had dreams of attending medical school and helping those that were in need. That desire to help others would remain a motto in Mrs. Culp's life.
In 1932, at the age of 16, she graduated from Glencoe High School, but there was no hope of her attending medical school. So she entered Jacksonville State University and studied education. That is where she met her sweetheart for life, Delos P. Culp. The couple married on December 23, 1934.
Mrs. Culp notes they taught school each year and went to summer school at Auburn until they graduated. She actually began educating youngsters at the age of 17. At first she taught at a three-teacher school, but after marrying Dr. Culp, she moved to his hometown in central Alabama and began teaching at a one-teacher school. The couple then moved to the southern part of the state where she taught special education and first grade. Dr. Culp moved fast through the ranks and was elected superintendent as Mrs. Culp followed and served as a secretary/bookkeeper.
Known for her kindness, her heart longed to help children with disabilities. She brought children who were disturbed or physically handicapped into her home and gave private lessons. Mrs. Culp also helped organize groups for handicapped aid while working to pass laws for those who are physically challenged. Her work with children became very important to her, and she remained involved in this for the rest of her career in education.
When Dr. Culp retired from East Tennessee State University, Mrs. Culp began a new career in real estate. To no one's surprise she excelled in this field and even expanded the business to buying small homes, renovating them, and selling them for a profit. She decided to keep some of the homes she purchased and rent them to Quillen College of Medicine students at low prices.
Besides her professional interests, Mrs. Culp is known for her varied personal avocations that include painting, writing, quilting, playing mountain music on a saw, cross-pollinating thousands of daylilies, and traveling. She has also been a member of numerous civic organizations and state boards.Mrs. Culp has three children, Dr. Jean Culp Flanigan '79, Associate Director of University Libraries at ETSU; James D. Culp, JD '73 '78, former City Attorney for the City of Johnson City, and Dr. John S. Culp '76, Associate Professor, ETSU Department of Family Medicine. She is also the proud grandmother of six.