President Myles Brand has described Ruth Norman Halls as Indiana University’s "greatest benefactor." She was an exceptional woman dedicated to education-both her own and that of others. Ruth Norman was born in Barlettville, Indiana, in 1898, where she spent her childhood on her grandfather’s dairy farm, milking cows, churning butter, and hauling wood and water. At the age of 13, Norman left home to attend high school in the nearby town of Bedford, which at that time had no efficient means to transport students as close as 10 miles away. She continued her education at Indiana University, majoring in the classics. Norman particularly enjoyed the lectures of visiting scholars, which were then held in Wylie, Maxwell, and Kirkwood Halls. Norman’s interest in theatre was first expressed in her participation in the Garrick Club’s production of Goldoni’s The Mistress of the Inn, in which her performance, as described by the IDS reviewer, "carried the audience along with delight."
After graduating from IU with distinction in 1919, Ruth Norman moved to Peru and then Winamac, teaching Latin to high school students. In 1921, Norman accepted the position of sales representative at Scott Foresman, a textbook publisher in Chicago. This work allowed her to travel the U.S. extensively. In 1935, she traveled to China.
Ruth Norman married the attorney Jay C. Halls in 1945. She retired from Scott Foresman but continuing her own education, reading avidly and expanding her personal library. In a letter to an IU professor she stated, "My idea of wealth is books."
In 1978, Ruth Norman Halls established a lecture fund at IU in her name, which was followed by the gift of her entire estate to the College of Arts and Sciences upon her death in 1990. Her legacy to the College totaled $11 million, which has endowed graduate research and fellowships; professorships in fine arts, Near Eastern Languages, history and religious studies; and the chair in history and the philosophy of science. A significant portion of her bequest was set aside for the Theatre and Drama Center; when these funds were applied to the construction project, they totaled in excess of $4 million. The Ruth N. Halls Theatre memorializes an exceptional alumna of Indiana University-a lover of books, a life-long learner, and the institution’s "greatest benefactor."