Ruth M. Adams was a Mepham High School English teacher and drama club advisor (from 1937 to 1943) who went on to great heights as an administrator is several universities. At Mepham she was beloved for the personal relationships she had with the students in Skull and Bones, the drama society.
Miss Adams was graduated from public schools in Floral Park and Hempstead, before receiving her bachelor's degree (graduating magna cum laude) in 1935 from Adelphi
She earned a master's degree from Columbia University in 1943. For the next three years she was a housemistress at Radcliffe College and a teaching fellow and tutor at Harvard University from 1944 to 1946. She received a Ph.D. degree from Radcliffe College in 1951 and had a special interest in Victorian literature. She received a Ford Foundation grant in 1953.
After receiving her doctorate, Ruth Adams began a career in higher education at the University of Rochester, starting as an instructor and later serving as assistant professor and associate professor of English and director of the honors program. Dr. Adams prefered—even on campus—to be known as Miss Adams. She taught Victorian literature at the University of Rochester for 14 years, and in 1960 was appointed dean of Douglass College (Rutgers University).
Miss Adams was Dean of Douglass College from 1960 to 1966.
Dean Adams oversaw the completion of the largest group of building projects in the College's history including a library, the Neilson Campus residence and dining halls, the New Gibbons residence complex, and three new classroom buildings. She established the first honors program and first program for economically disadvantaged students at Douglass College.
As the decade closed, the social upheavals of the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War were reflected on the campus. Committees were created to deal with disruption and dissent. Graduation requirements were substantially reduced and made more flexible. Mandatory Chapel attendance ended, and formal affirmative action policies were adopted.
The college named the Ruth Adams Building in her honor. In addition to classrooms and lecture halls, Ruth Adams Building is home to Rutgers' nationally ranked Anthropology department. Other departments housed in the building include American Studies, French, and Classics.
In 1964 Dean Adams beat out President Goheen of Princeton to become WABC's college Principal of the Year.
During this period Dean Adams was apparently on the Board of Directors, of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, 1965-66.
In honor of Dean Ruth Adams the Associate Alumnae of Douglass College established a fellowship for an alumna pursuing an advanced degree.
She resigned to become president of Wellesley College.
Ruth Adams was President of Wellesley College from 1966 to 1972, during a turbulent period in American history. During her administration, student participation in the governance of the College increased; the faculty/student agreement on student government was revised, and students were permitted to serve on Trustee and Academic Council committees. Educational opportunities were broadened. A cross-registration program was established with M.I.T., and exchange programs were established with eleven other New England liberal arts institutions. The Continuing Education Program was established. Wellesley decided to remain a single-sex institution.
During the height of the Vietnam war, and the protests it was causing, a student Eleanor "Eldie" Acheson, granddaughter of former Secretary of State Dean Acheson, had the idea that a student should address the graduating class at commencement for the first time in the college's history.
After much argument and discussion Miss Adams agreed, and introduced the students speaker: "In addition to inviting Senator Brooke to speak to them this morning, the Class of '69 has expressed a desire to speak to them and for them at this morning's commencement. There was no debate so far as I could ascertain as to who their spokesman was to be -- Miss Hillary Rodham."
After leaving Wellesley, Adams became the first woman vice president at Dartmouth College where they had just decided to admit women students.
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 President Kemeny 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 1972 until her retirement in 1988.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Ruth Adams had a long association with the Institution. She was elected a Member of the Corporation in 1973, and served on the Executive Committee from 1980 to 1987. She was elected an Honorary Trustee in 1987. During her service to WHOI she was instrumental in enhancing the climate for women at the Institution.
She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Modern Language Association. She contributions to higher education were recognized with honorary degrees from Adelphia College, Russell Sage, Rutgers University, Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts, Bates College, St. Lawrence University, and Union College.
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; 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.