College Mourns the Loss of Ruth W. Williams

Long-serving trustee and philanthropist was 75

May 8, 2016   /  

WOOSTER, Ohio – Ruth Whitmore Williams, whose service on The College of Wooster’s board of trustees spanned more than two decades, and whose philanthropy touched many parts of the college, died Friday. She was 75.

Ruth W Williams
Ruth and Morris Williams

“A dedicated trustee since 1994 and a loyal Scot forever, Ruth leaves behind – on this campus and in the hearts of her many, many friends – a legacy that will never be forgotten,” said Georgia Nugent, Wooster’s president.

Williams attended Wooster from 1958 to 1961, and received her bachelor’s degree from Duke University in 1963. She taught preschool and served as director of the Gateway School in Wynnewood, Penn. until her retirement in 2002.

“As a member of Wooster’s board of trustees since 1994,” Nugent said, “Ruth could always be counted on to ask incisive questions that cut to the heart of the issue at hand. From her student days to the moment she was taken from us, Wooster has had no better or stauncher friend.”

Ruth and Morris Williams, her husband of 55 years, together supported Wooster with their philanthropy in myriad areas. In 1978, they established the Whitmore-Williams Scholarship Fund, and in 1998, the Whitmore-Williams Professorship in Psychology. In 2013, they gave the largest single gift in the college’s history, $15 million to support science education. Three million dollars was earmarked to endow new scholarships for science majors, $2 million to endow a professorship in computational biology or informatics, and a $10 million lead gift to jumpstart fund-raising for a new integrated science facility. That facility, the Ruth W. Williams Hall of Life Science, will break ground this summer.

Last May, during a gala board dinner to celebrate the successful completion of fund-raising for the new science building, Morris Williams stepped to the podium with an announcement that came as a surprise to everyone in the room, including his wife. His voice choked with emotion, he spoke of how much he and Ruth both loved Wooster. He said that despite the fact that neither of them had been science majors, they had been happy to support the new life sciences facility because it was important to the college, but now he thought they should do something that was closer to Ruth’s heart. So he announced that he and Ruth would give $2 million to endow scholarships for music majors, $2 million to endow scholarships for education students, and $1 million to endow a scholarship in honor of outgoing president Grant Cornwell and his wife, Peg.

It was a moment that epitomized Ruth and Morris Williams’s deep and abiding love for one another, and for Wooster.

A service in celebration of Ruth Williams’s life will be held on Saturday, May 21, at 10:30 a.m., at the Gladwyne Presbyterian Church in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania. Expressions of sympathy and remembrances of Ruth may be sent to the Office of the President, to be passed on to Morris Williams.