In Loving Memory of Dr. Ruth Lucier

Dr. Ruth Lucier—small, soft-spoken, and unassuming—seemed to take up so little space. Yet her footprints were deep—as is our grief over her loss. For 47 unfailing years, she devoted her life to Bennett College and to her students—serving as a guide to them and a touchstone for all of us.

She came to Bennett in 1973 after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, and she stayed—quietly stitching herself into the fabric of the college community. As a professor of philosophy and ethics, she helped students expand their understanding of the world, of themselves, and of one another. As the director of the Interdisciplinary Studies program, she helped students find and forge their own unique life paths.

The Interdisciplinary Studies program will be her academic legacy. It has been described as an experiment, launched in the 70s, that encouraged (and trusted) Bennett women to direct their own course of study. She was an ideal shepherd for such a program, because she knew how to help each young woman see a world of possibility in herself. They could see their own potential, because it was reflected in her belief in them.

Her students call her a cheerleader, a supporter, a mentor, a guide. She didn’t steer them in the way she wanted them to go; she helped them find their own way. Her guidance did not end when they completed her philosophy classes or even when they graduated. Former students called on her as their lives evolved and she continued to advise and encourage them through graduate studies, career shifts, and life changes. When they reached a crossroads, she pointed them back to their truth and, thus, to their dreams. When her students thanked her, she turned that gratitude back to them. Her delight was in their accomplishment.

Perhaps Dr. Lucier was able to be so generous because she kept her own cup full. As a scholar of philosophy, she reveled in the life of the mind and the world of ideas. She wrote and published prolifically and participated in associations and organizations devoted to the contemplation and study of values, ethics and moral ideals—including the United Methodist Church. She sought opportunities to study under thought leaders in the fields of religion, philosophy and the humanities. Whenever she could, she took the opportunity to travel, exploring the farthest reaches of the world—China, Egypt, India—to engage with its people.

To her former students—hundreds of them—she was not simply a professor. She was a singular, inimitable being of venerable generosity and unfailing encouragement. “She was so kind,” her students say. “So kind.” It’s a word we seldom have use for these days. People are “nice.” They are “sweet.” And she was that, too. But kindness speaks of a deeper benevolence, an empathy, the profound ability to consider the humanity of another. Ruth Lucier was kind.

The memory many of us have of Dr. Lucier is at important college ceremonies, clad in full regalia, proudly carrying the college mace. It seemed to overwhelm her small frame. How can she hold it? But she never struggled. She held it high and proud, her face alight and smiling. She knew that she was not carrying an object; she was holding up an ideal. In that way, she didn’t carry it alone—she made us carry it with her.

In her life, Dr. Lucier often expressed her love for the natural world—each small, wild, God-made thing. In reverence for the earth, she trod lightly upon it. Now we can imagine her floating away from it, and us, altogether—growing smaller and more distant until nothing is left but the warmth of her smile.

Dr. Ruth Lucier—small, soft-spoken, and unassuming—seemed to take up so little space. Yet her footprints were deep—as is our grief over her loss. For 47 unfailing years, she devoted her life to Bennett College and to her students—serving as a guide to them and a touchstone for all of us.

She came to Bennett in 1973 after earning a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland, and she stayed—quietly stitching herself into the fabric of the college community. As a professor of philosophy and ethics, she helped students expand their understanding of the world, of themselves, and of one another. As the director of the Interdisciplinary Studies program, she helped students find and forge their own unique life paths.

The Interdisciplinary Studies program will be her academic legacy. It has been described as an experiment, launched in the 70s, that encouraged (and trusted) Bennett women to direct their own course of study. She was an ideal shepherd for such a program, because she knew how to help each young woman see a world of possibility in herself. They could see their own potential, because it was reflected in her belief in them.

Her students call her a cheerleader, a supporter, a mentor, a guide. She didn’t steer them in the way she wanted them to go; she helped them find their own way. Her guidance did not end when they completed her philosophy classes or even when they graduated. Former students called on her as their lives evolved and she continued to advise and encourage them through graduate studies, career shifts, and life changes. When they reached a crossroads, she pointed them back to their truth and, thus, to their dreams. When her students thanked her, she turned that gratitude back to them. Her delight was in their accomplishment.

Perhaps Dr. Lucier was able to be so generous because she kept her own cup full. As a scholar of philosophy, she reveled in the life of the mind and the world of ideas. She wrote and published prolifically and participated in associations and organizations devoted to the contemplation and study of values, ethics and moral ideals—including the United Methodist Church. She sought opportunities to study under thought leaders in the fields of religion, philosophy and the humanities. Whenever she could, she took the opportunity to travel, exploring the farthest reaches of the world—China, Egypt, India—to engage with its people.

To her former students—hundreds of them—she was not simply a professor. She was a singular, inimitable being of venerable generosity and unfailing encouragement. “She was so kind,” her students say. “So kind.” It’s a word we seldom have use for these days. People are “nice.” They are “sweet.” And she was that, too. But kindness speaks of a deeper benevolence, an empathy, the profound ability to consider the humanity of another. Ruth Lucier was kind.

The memory many of us have of Dr. Lucier is at important college ceremonies, clad in full regalia, proudly carrying the college mace. It seemed to overwhelm her small frame. How can she hold it? But she never struggled. She held it high and proud, her face alight and smiling. She knew that she was not carrying an object; she was holding up an ideal. In that way, she didn’t carry it alone—she made us carry it with her.

In her life, Dr. Lucier often expressed her love for the natural world—each small, wild, God-made thing. In reverence for the earth, she trod lightly upon it. Now we can imagine her floating away from it, and us, altogether—growing smaller and more distant until nothing is left but the warmth of her smile.

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17 entries.
Bheki Langa from Greensboro, NC, USA. wrote on August 11, 2020 at 4:20 pm:
She was one of the kindest, gracious, and self-effacing people I have ever met. She was an avid scholar whose scope was truly international. She was extremely interested in African traditional, religious systems as well as in Mahatma Gandhi whose work in nonviolent resistance began in Durban, my hometown in South Africa. I greatly benefited from those exchanges. They motivated me to look more deeply into Gandhi's relationship with and writings on the African people in South Africa which, to say the least, were an unfortunate revelation I had missed in my study of Gandhi's legendary life. Dr. Lucier, I shall miss your vast curiosity and your ever-present smile.
ML Haigler from Greensboro, NC, USA wrote on July 29, 2020 at 5:47 pm:
One of the most vivid memories I have of Dr. Lucier is when I was selected to chaperone 42 students to the University of Gloucestershire in Cheltenham, England in 2005, sponsored by the Brethren Colleges Abroad program. I was a little anxious about the trip, partly because I had never traveled abroad, but mostly because these students were from other colleges and universities in the US. I had never met any of them prior to our departure from Newark, NJ. Dr. Lucier, who had previously chaperoned students in the program, insisted that I come speak in one of her classes, before and after my international travels. She presented me with a BCA t-shirt and several loud (bright) lime-colored BCA luggage tags. She really made me feel special, and little did I know the luggage tags would come in handy. All 42 students and/or their parents spotted me at the Newark International Airport largely due to those bright luggage tags! Take your rest, Colleague! You will be missed
Gwen Barnes Drummer from Brown Summit NC wrote on July 27, 2020 at 4:40 pm:
I am a proud graduate with a degree in Interdisciplinary Studies obtained under the guidance Dr . Ruth Lucier and the late Dt. Helena Trobian. We were pioneers in that discipline. Thanks to their vision.
Areaona Roberson from Massachusetts wrote on July 26, 2020 at 7:48 am:
I am honored to be apart of Dr. Lucier's brain child, the ISP program. Whether it was a listening ear, recommendation, or motivation, Dr. Lucier always came through. I will miss her calm demeanor and inspiring intellect. Thank You Dr. Lucier. I can not imagine my time at Bennett without you. -Areaona Roberson
Gwenn Bookman from Durham, NC, USA wrote on July 26, 2020 at 5:23 am:
Dr. Lucier was a dear! I spoke with her almost daily during the academic year, as she would pass my open office door in Black Hall and stop by to talk for a moment. She always had a smile and a kind word; she frequently wanted a second opinion about something on her mind. I recently went back to my office for the first time since March and there was a message from Ruth on my phone. She spoke encouragingly about our venture into online teaching for the remainder of the semester and she suggested that we might use the time to write a grant for a global experience for our students. I will treasure our time together and I will think of her often.

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