Five outstanding faculty members have recently been named recipients of the Ruth N. Halls endowed chair and professorships. Michael L. Friedman, professor of history and philosophy of science, was named the first Ruth N. Halls Chair. Recipients of the Ruth N. Halls professorships, who were chosen from among 123 candidates on the basis of research accomplishments and international reputation, include Professor of Fine Arts Robert M. Barnes, Professor of History Helen Nader, Professor of Religious Studies J. Samuel N. Preus, and Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Culture Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych.
A native of Bedford, Indiana, and an IU alumna, Ruth Norman Halls graduated with honors in classics in the class of 1919. After teaching high school Latin for two years in Peru and Winamac, Indiana, she became a sales representative for textbook publisher Scott Foresman and traveled the United States promoting Elson-Gray readers for elementary students. Halls was adamant in her belief that a career woman in the 1920s, 30s, and 40s could do anything her abilities qualified her for: "At Scott Foresman we were paid according to our capabilities. I made less than some of the territory salesmen, more than others . . . . It was a wonderful life. I would have paid Scott Foresman to let me do it if I hadn't had to earn my living." Halls notes that many of Scott Foresman's textbook salespersons were women because they worked well with elementary teachers, most of whom were also women. Halls met her husband, Chicago lawyer Jay Halls, in 1945, and they retired to Santa Barbara, California in 1956.
When she died in 1990, Halls left her entire estate to the College of Arts and Sciences. But that legacy was not her first endowment of the college. An active alumna throughout her life, Halls was also a staunch defender of a liberal arts education for its value in preparing young people to live interesting and richly varied lives. She contended that "it's essential not to get too narrow too soon--to study what has gone before and to read widely." In a thank-you letter to Halls for an earlier gift she had made to the college in 1980, Professor of English Mary Burgan wrote, "When a gift like yours comes to us, it reminds us of the value of what we do. That's why I say we appreciate the money, but we appreciate even more what it stands for--an essential vote of confidence in our work as scholars and teachers." Halls responded graciously with a note that said, "My education at IU meant a great deal to me. The gift makes me happy."