Helen H. Dutcher, 92, a lover of learning

Helen Heydrick Dutcher graduated from Frankford High School in 1935, in the middle of the Great Depression.

"She wanted to go to college," daughter Carol Bream said, "but the family didn't have any money."

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Yet the dream lasted - for decades.

In 1973, 38 years after she left high school, Mrs. Dutcher earned her bachelor's degree.

Perhaps more remarkably, in 1988, the year she turned 70, she earned her doctorate.

On Thursday, Jan. 13, Mrs. Dutcher, 92, former director of training for nonteaching personnel in the Philadelphia School District, died of a stroke at Twin Maples, a nursing home in Durham, Conn.

Mrs. Dutcher was a Rhawnhurst resident for more than 40 years before moving to Durham in 2003.

After high school, Mrs. Dutcher studied at a secretarial school and worked as secretary to a bank executive, her daughter said.

But in the early 1950s, she became an administrative assistant to a School District executive in Northeast Philadelphia.

And in 1963, while continuing her day job, Mrs. Dutcher began her college career in night classes at Temple University.

"It took her 10 years," Bream said. "It was '73 when she got her bachelor's, I believe in education."

While still working at the School District, Mrs. Dutcher "took five years to do her master's, in either psychology or education, in '78," Bream said. "Then 10 years for the doctorate in 1988, when she was 70." All three degrees were from Temple.

Mrs. Dutcher retired around 1986 or 1987, her daughter said. "I told her, 'Mother, you have to retire or you're never going to finish your thesis.' I had finished my Ph.D. in '73, and I knew what it took to finish a thesis."

While studying for her bachelor's, Mrs. Dutcher had switched from being a School District secretary to teaching others how to be one.

"She started out teaching secretaries what forms to fill out, how to organize their offices," Bream said. "This is way before computers.

"Then as she moved on in the job, she would develop programs for school bus drivers . . . including preretirement workshops."

The title of her Temple doctoral thesis was "Factors That Lead to Satisfaction in Retirement."

Mrs. Dutcher was a member of the Philadelphia chapters of the Junior Woman's Club, the YWCA, and the American Society for Training and Development.

She was a member of the Philadelphia Senior Center, Singing City Choir, and the Women's Board at Arcadia University.

Besides her daughter, Mrs. Dutcher is survived by sons William and Robert, two sisters, five grandchildren, and a great-grandson. Her husband of 62 years, Russell, died in 2003.

A memorial service was set for 11 a.m. Saturday, March 5, at the First Church of Christ, 190 Court St., Middletown, Conn.


Contact staff writer Walter F. Naedele at 215-854-5607 or wnaedele@phillynews.com.