President Emerita Ruth Adams, 1914-2004

For immediate release:
November 12, 2004

Mary Ann Hill,

WELLESLEY, 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 United States.

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.

The decade of the 1960s was a period of turbulence on college campuses across the nation. 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.

Dr. Adams 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.

Dr. Adams 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.

Dr. Adams loved to travel. She had been to many countries, including Mexico, the Virgin 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.”

Dr. Adams 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.

Dr. Adams has no survivors. Per her wishes, there will be no memorial service. Donations 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