Longtime Alumni Society Board Member Joan Ruth Set to Retire
by Joe Savrock (February 2009)
Joan Ruth ’61 EK ED, ’75 M.Ed. has a genuine love for the teaching profession.
Ruth has been a very active board member of the Penn State College of Education Alumni Society for the better part of 20 years. This June, she will retire from the board.
Ruth was an elementary school teacher for nearly 30 years in the elementary schools of the West Shore School District, near Harrisburg, Pa. She then worked another ten years as a student teacher supervisor at Penn State Harrisburg.
But she felt that these activities weren’t enough to fulfill her career; she was compelled to be active in other ways for the betterment of education. Serving on the Alumni Society board turned out to be a perfect fit.
“Being a board member has been an extremely rewarding experience,” says Ruth. “I’ve always viewed this opportunity as a small way to give back to the University, which has given so much to me. Penn State made it possible for me to achieve a fulfilling career in education. What’s more, it’s been a good way of keeping up with the College’s activities.
“It’s been gratifying to observe how the Alumni Society’s activities have grown over the years,” continues Ruth, “for example, the Student Teacher Network has been an exceptionally great project.”
As a board member, Ruth certainly has left her mark. She has served as board secretary, and, more notably, she has been the tireless coordinator of the very successful Children’s Book Drive for nine years.
Ruth became involved in the Book Drive soon after it originated in 1997, and in 2000 she took over as its chairperson. The committee solicits donations of used books, collects the books, and distributes them to schools, shelters, libraries, children’s hospitals, and other institutions that can’t afford to buy new books.
As of 2008, she says, an astounding 136,776 children’s books have been collected and distributed. Twice, the Children’s Book Drive has won the Penn State Alumni Association’s National Service Week Project Award, which is given to affiliate groups for outstanding work.
“Several years ago we gave books to schools in the Katrina disaster area,” she says. “We’ve also shipped books to India, Africa, Puerto Rico, and to some Indian reservation schools in the American West.”
She remembers the gratitude of students at a Harrisburg inner city school one day when she personally delivered a carload of books. “Those kids were so excited to be receiving books for their school,” she says. “They came out and helped me unload the books from my car.”
Although retired from the classroom and eying her final board meeting in June, Ruth guarantees that there is one particular activity she won’t be retiring from anytime soon—her role as one of Penn State’s most avid football fans. She has held season tickets at Beaver Stadium for more than 30 years, rooting fervently from a keen vantage point near the 30-yard-line, some 28 rows up from the playing field. She is a member of the Nittany Lion Club.
With football games and other interests, she still expects to visit the University Park campus occasionally.
“My years of involvement with the Alumni Society have been memorable,” she says. “I’ve especially enjoyed working with Dean (David) Monk, and I’ve met some absolutely wonderful people. The alums, faculty, and staff of the College are fully dedicated to our profession.”