Emerita Ruth Adams, 1914-2004
November 12, 2004
Mass. -- Ruth Marie Adams died in Hanover,
N.H. on Nov. 10, 2004, at the age of 90. Dr. Adams was president
emerita of Wellesley College and served
as a vice president at Dartmouth College to help lead the transition
to coeducation in the early 1970s.
Dr. Adams was born in New York on July 10, 1914, the only child
of Hester (Dalton) and Thomas Adams. She grew up on Long Island
and, though she traveled extensively, spent her life in the Northeastern
She dedicated her life to higher education. After earning a Bachelor
of Arts degree in 1935 from Adelphi College, she taught high school
English for several years. A Masters of Arts at Columbia University
followed in 1943. Subsequently, she was a housemistress at Radcliffe
from 1943-45 and a teaching fellow and tutor at Harvard from 1944-46.
She earned her Ph. D. from Radcliffe College in 1951 and received
a Ford Foundation grant in 1953-54. Victorian literature was her
area of special interest.
Through 1960, Dr. Adams was instructor, assistant professor and
associate professor of English and director of the Honors Program
at the University of Rochester. From 1960-1966, she was professor
of English and dean of Douglass College at Rutgers.
of the 1960s was a period of turbulence on college campuses across
It was against this backdrop that Dr.
Adams moved to Wellesley College as its president and professor
of English. She remained at Wellesley from 1966-1972, leading the
institution through many changes: curricular innovations allowing
students more flexibility in their academic programs, creation
of interdepartmental majors, establishment of a cross-registration
program with M.I.T. and membership in the Twelve College Exchange,
recruitment of a more diverse student population, increased flexibility
in social regulation of students, construction of the Schneider
Student Center, and reaffirmation by the Board of Trustees of Wellesley’s
commitment to remain a women’s college.
In 1972, when the Dartmouth Trustees voted to adopt coeducation,
Dartmouth President John Kemeny asked Dr. Adams to come to Hanover
as Dartmouth's Vice President for five years to help in this historic
transition. She accepted and became a trusted advisor to the president
and an important leader during the early coeducational years. In
addition to her administrative duties, Dr. Adams served as a tenured
Professor of English from l972 until her retirement in l988.
Dr. Adams received honorary degrees from several colleges and
Universities: Adelphi, Russell Sage, Rutgers, Northeastern, University
of Massachusetts, Bates, St. Lawrence, and Union. She was a member
of Phi Beta Kappa and the Modern Language Association.
served: on the Committee on Higher Education, Middle States Association;
as director of the Johnson Mutual Fund; as
Governor of the Investment Company Institute; as Corporator of
the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute; as trustee of St. John’s
College, Annapolis and Santa Fe; as consultant to the Chief-of-Staff’s
Committee for the review of the U.S. Military Academy; as Harvard
and Radcliffe Colleges Committee of the Visiting Committees of
Harvard University; as senator of Phi Beta Kappa; and as trustee
of the Breitmeier Foundation.
also served in several capacities as consultant to the U.S. State
Department: on the Advisory Board of the Foreign Service
Institute; as consultant to the Board of Professional Development;
on the Selection Committee, Grade I Foreign Service Officers.
loved to travel. She had been to many countries, including Mexico,
Islands, Jamaica, England, France, Spain, Portugal,
Belgium, Holland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Italy, Yugoslavia,
Turkey, Greece, Egypt, Morocco, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, Bahrain, and China. Her favorite country
was England and she was proud to have visited the places named
in T.S. Eliot’s “Four Quartets.”
was an independent and adventurous woman. She celebrated her
88th birthday with
a ride in a hot air balloon. She was a voracious
reader of the New York Times every day, of mystery stories, of
the latest best-sellers, of the classics. She loved theater, dance,
and opera and when she could no longer attend in person, she listened
every Saturday on Vermont Public Radio. She loved crossword puzzles
and often tackled the Sunday Times puzzle in ink. She took great
delight in the Red Sox triumph this year, especially having been
alive for their previous World Series victory. A dog lover, Dr.
Adams had been devoted to her beloved black standard poodles: Harley
and then Betsy Trotwood, known as Trot. “Four-leggeds” were
always welcome guests in Dr. Adams’ home.
has no survivors. Per her wishes, there will be no memorial service.
in her memory can be made to the Upper Valley
Humane Society, the Howe Library, or a charity of one’s choosing.
Since 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in providing an
excellent liberal-arts education for women who will make a difference
in the world. Its 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300
undergraduate students from all 50 states and 68 countries. For
more information, go to www.wellesley.edu.