Sunday , December 17 2017

American host-mother of Kuwaiti students turns 100

WASHINGTON, July 27, (KUNA): Thelma Kouzes, more commonly called “Mom,” celebrated her 100th birthday on Wednesday with many gathering to reflect on her numerous achievements and fondest memories, including when she hosted Kuwaiti students.

Between 1960 and 2004, she and her late husband Tom Kouzes hosted 174 international students from 34 different countries, many from Kuwait and the rest of the Middle East.

A former student from Kuwait, who stayed with Kouzes along with her brother, Sundus Al-Sharraf, knew “Mom” since she was born.

“We would come and visit throughout our lives then during the war we came here and went to school,” said Al-Sharraf.

“She’s very caring and helped us do our homework and reports. She would be there to drop me at the metro and go to school.” She continued, “I was always in touch with ‘Mom’ because she did a lot for us as a family. She helped us and supported us.” Kouzes herself was once treated with a gift to travel to Kuwait. She said she was “treated like royalty.” Today, she still has very fond memories of the country and her Kuwaiti students.

At her 100th birthday celebrations, she was presented with a document that was entered into the US congressional record by US House member Gerry Connolly.

Connolly’s wife, Cathy, read the note, which listed her list of lifelong accomplishments, including working for President Theodore Roosevelt, marching alongside Martin Luther King for civil rights, and commitment to international students by being elected a national mother.

Kouzes was born in 1917 in Iowa and proudly says she is a first-generation American, the daughter of immigrants whose parents came to the US from Denmark. After growing up during the Great Depression, she moved to Washington DC in 1938 to work for Roosevelt. She became interested in civil rights after attending a racially-segregated religious service.

She was an active member of the American Field Service, UNICEF, the UN, and the American Cancer Society. She also helped to save the public schools in Virginia during desegregation and racial integration along with other mothers in Northern Virginia.

She birthed two sons, has three grandchildren, and one great grandson.

When asked if she had any words of wisdom Kouzes responded, “I have thousands of them.”

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