The Man Formerly Known as Sanford

The other day, I read an article about a news anchor whose photo was mistakenly captioned as “Dana Horsewomen” (in place of “Dana Holgorsen”), either someone’s idea of a joke, or the result of an autocorrect feature on crack. This reminded me of the following:

Sometime during the ‘90’s, a professor at Arizona State University (my alma mater) appeared in the university’s faculty directory under an incorrect name. Due to a typographic error, Dr. Sanford Couch became “Snaford Couch.”

Here’s the remarkable thing: For whatever reason – indifference? amusement? – Dr. Couch kept the new version of his name. Whether he made it legal or not, he’s gone by “Snaford Couch” ever since. Not only does he continue to appear in the directory as “Snaford” year after year, but he took it a step further and has it written that way on his professional web site. I love him for this.

I mean, how many people would think to become the error rather than have it fixed?

Maybe I should have contacted Dr. Couch to get his permission to talk about him in my blog, but I don’t think he’d mind. This is not me making fun of him. This is me writing a little tribute to him, because here I am throwing a fit if someone spells my name with a “Ch” or ends it with a “y.” When someone writes my name, I always say it’s “Kristi with a ‘K’,” like the K is such a big deal. Next time I feel compelled to prevent such an error, I should think of The Man Formerly Known as Sanford.

Snaford Couch is the man.

15 thoughts on “The Man Formerly Known as Sanford

  1. Hey,
    I had Dr. Couch as well at ASU for several Russian classes. Great guy, used to invite the class for a pancake breakfast at his house once per semester.


  2. I love this anecdote! This fits my mental image of him… I mean, I’d figure Dr. Couch for the sort of guy who’d do things like that. =) Very cool. Yeah, there are some great professors at ASU.


  3. In the mid late 80s, Sandy changed his name deliberately transposing The N and the A. Sandy always had this pet nickname for himself, Snafy. He was going through some personal issues at that time and decided that this change was a good laugh presented to the world.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Carl, thank you for sharing this!… clearly, Sandy is a legend (or, the story of how his name became “Snaford” became ASU urban legend). =) I love that he changed his name in order to make others laugh; what a terrific way to help manage a difficult time in one’s personal life. Those who know (knew?) him are lucky… we should all be so lucky to know someone with an outlook and attitude like his!



  5. Dr. Couch was a professor of mine as well in the mid-90s. I stumbled across your blog trying to look him up again and felt compelled to contribute. I never knew the story of “Snaford” but was always curious about it. A wonderful and very compassionate person with a terrific sense of humor — he was one of my favorite and most influential teachers in 10 years spent at ASU in undergraduate and graduate programs. I enjoyed many good conversations and ping pong matches with him during pancake breakfasts at the “tsar’s palace” over the years. The world is a better place because of him and I do think he would find your small tribute amusing.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Thank you for commenting to my post; I loved reading about some of your fond memories with Dr. Couch. People like him are the people who can restore our faith in humanity in the darkest of times. These memories are priceless. And I’m so glad that you think he’d enjoy my little tribute. =)


  7. I had Dr. Couch back in 1966-67. Wonderful guy; wonderful teacher. I must confess that the callow indifference of youth cost me my opportunity to really learn the language at the time. No matter, what I did make the effort to learn has stayed with me all these 50+ years, even earning me compliments on my accent. And, Slava Bogu, I still delight in the paslovitzas Couch so deftly used to keep us engaged and help us think in Russian.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Bill, by all accounts, Dr. Couch was a well-loved and respected professor; I would have enjoyed taking classes with him. To begin with, it takes a special sort of gift to be a good foreign language teacher, and he seems to have had that and then some. The fact that you’ve remembered his lessons years later (with a good accent to boot!) says a lot! Of course, it also says that you studied well and perhaps have an aptitude for the language. =) Thank you for your comment.


  9. I, too, was one of Dr. Couch’s students in the early 1980s. All of the students who had never studied under him were scared to death of him – all due to rumors that he was a reincarnation of Иван Грозный (Ivan The Terrible), but it was a terribly unkind characterization of a consummate and witty gentleman. On a whim, I recently looked for his study text on and was greatly surprised to find it. Except it’s not currently available, and I’d love to replace the one I lost. Dr. C was an excellent instructor, a very sharp guy and I was honored to be one of his students.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for sharing your experience with Dr. Couch and his class, and for thus reminding me of the impact that teachers have on us… these are truly people and experiences that we can remember for the rest of our lives. Teachers are most certainly not paid or respected enough, in my humble opinion (formulative years teachers, especially). ~It sounds like Dr. Couch would also say that he was honored to have had you as a student.


  11. I was a student of Dr. Couch’s (although he referred to himself as Couchovich) in the mid-1970s. I took two years of Russian just for the heck of it. I was to became a Math & Computer Science teacher. Dr. Couch taught me Russian, but more importantly he taught me how to teach, just from his unique teaching style. My teaching career was a poor attempt to imitate the master.

    I sent Dr. Couch an email a few years ago. His reply email referred to “Snaford C. Couch”. I figured they had set up his email account wrong, and he was too old to know the difference. It made me sad.

    I should have known. Well done, sir. I am honored to have known you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hello, Dennis. Your comment makes me smile. Couchovich! That is wonderful. I’m guessing that your teaching was a pretty good imitation of Master Couchovich’s.

    I’m glad that you now know that he adopted the name “Snaford” at the university. He inspires me for this reason, alone. ~I can see him being a person who would feel likewise – honored to have been a student’s teacher and mentor. I love your comment. Dr. Couch has left a legacy of passion for teaching, learning, and just being an inspirational human. Not many teachers leave such gifts.


  13. I also studied with Dr C in the late 70’s and found him a brilliant, witty professor. But one semester he started to really lose his drive and concentration.
    I later found out that this was because US intelligence was keeping him up late with questions on how to decipher and translate communications they had intercepted following their invasion of Afghanistan…


  14. I was a Russian major at ASU, class of 1981. I found Dr Couch a brilliant, witty and outstanding professor and teacher. But I recall that at one point he seemed a bit burnt out and distracted…found out later that this was during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan and US Intelligence agencies were keeping him up late at night with requests to help translate and decipher the messages they had intercepted.


  15. Hi Paul, thank you for sharing your experience with Dr. Couch. How historically intriguing that the reason for his distraction turned out to be assisting U.S. intelligence with intercepted Soviet messages! What an incredible life he must have lived… and how lucky you were to have studied with him. Again, thank you for your comment here.


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