uww legend ruth hooke has died

Monday, May 29, 2017

We are sad to announce the death of UWW legend Ruth Hooke, MDiv. Ruth served UWW students as an advisor and instructor from 1974-1995. She is greatly missed. Below we have reprinted whole sections of her obituary in honor of the extraordinary life she led. 

Ruth Ferguson Hooke – teacher, mentor, activist, traveler - passed away Saturday, May 20, 2017, in Chelsea, Vermont, in the loving arms of her daughter, son, and caregiver.

Ruth was born March 12, 1927, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, to Joseph C. and Marguerite (Brinton) Ferguson. She attended the Westtown School and Wellesley College, then worked in Europe helping with refugee resettlement. She earned a masters of divinity at Yale Divinity School, one of ten women in her class. She worked in religious education at the Friends Meeting in Cambridge.
She met Richard Hooke while working in Cambridge. They were married on October 22, 1960, in Boston. They soon moved to Henniker, New Hampshire, where Richard taught art at New England College. While on Richard's sabbatical year in St. Paul, Minnesota in 1969-70, she found a job providing adult education to welfare recipients, which she found highly rewarding. This led to her co-founding of Project Second Start in Concord, New Hampshire, a program for undereducated women, which taught literacy skills and readiness for employment; the program is still highly successful. In 1974 she began working at the University Without Walls (UWW) at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. In this degree program for working adults, she was an instructor, advisor, and program coordinator. In 1990 she won an award for outstanding advising from the National Council of Academic Advisors. Upon her retirement in 1995, her colleagues at UWW described her as "the soul of the program."

Ruth was a member of the Amherst Town Meeting, especially pressing the Town Meeting to address human rights issues. She was active in Amherst Writers and Artists, and taught creative writing for many years at Grace House, a residence for recovering addicts. She was also involved in the Alternatives to Violence Project, which taught prison inmates conflict resolution skills. She founded the local chapter of the Raging Grannies, and sang and demonstrated with them at numerous protests at nuclear power plants, the School of the Americas in Georgia, and in front of the White House to call for the closing of Guantanamo. Every Sunday for years, she and Richard stood with a group on the Amherst Town Common to draw attention to the issues of the day.

She was an inveterate traveler, visiting over 40 countries. She went to Haiti with Witness for Peace in 1995, to Israel/Palestine and South Africa with the Fellowship for Reconciliation, and to Vietnam with Winds for Peace, (through the Madison, Wisconsin, Quaker Meeting) an organization that helps Vietnamese women achieve economic self-sufficiency. Ruth sponsored the purchase of 50 cows, one for each woman in a small town.

Ruth was a member of Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, where she served on the Vestry, and sang in the church choir. She also sang in the Hampshire Choral Society, and hosted in her home "Hookes' Regular Sing," a gathering of Sacred Harp singers. She was a docent at the Emily Dickinson House, a Fellow in the Society for Values in Higher Education, and a Companion in the Society of Companions of the Holy Cross, an organization of Episcopal women devoted to linking prayer and social action. After Richard's death in 2001, Ruth lived for 11 years at Applewood in Amherst. In 2013, Ruth was awarded the Standing On Her Shoulders Award from the Women's Fund of Western Massachusetts, to honor her lifetime of activism for social justice.

In 2013, she moved to her son's house in Vershire, Vermont. With the help of some wonderful caregivers, she became a regular member of the Bach Study group in Hanover, sang in the Juneberry Music classes in Thetford, had a weekly sing with children in the Westshire Elementary School, and took numerous study courses. She attended the First Congregational Church in Thetford (Hill), and St. Thomas's Episcopal Church in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Late in 2016 she was diagnosed with liver cancer, and was taken under Hospice care and moved to the home of her caregiver Eve DesJardins in Chelsea. She attended church on Mothers' Day and a concert that evening and died less than six days later.

She loved and treasured a few things fiercely. She loved supporting the poor and oppressed. She loved music; she treasured times singing with family. She loved the coast of Maine, in particular the family camp in Castine; she found peace in sitting on the deck in the sunshine and watching the tide. She loved swimming, and in her last summers swam nearly every day at the Treasure Island beach; our memories of her tottering down to the shore when she could barely walk, and then finding the peace of floating in that cool embrace, are ones we will treasure.

She is survived by her son David daughter-in-law Kathy and their son Benjamin of Vershire; her daughter Ruthanna, her partner Judy Adkins, and their son Silas of Alexandria, Virginia; by her brother Brinton Ferguson; by her brothers-and sisters-in-law and by numerous cousins, nieces and nephews.