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Ruther Oser Newman ’55

April 25, 2021, in Sunnyvale, California.

Ruthie was born in Berkeley, California. The family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then, in 1935, to the Soviet Union. Two years later, they fled the threat of Stalin’s Great Purge, taking refuge with Ruthie’s grandparents in Tel Aviv. In 1938, they returned to Berkeley, where Ruthie met Dirk Newman at Garfield Junior High. They began dating in high school and married in 1954, following his graduation from UC Berkeley. The following year, Ruthie completed her BA degree at Reed, having written her thesis, “An Analysis of Louis MacNeice’s Ten Burnt Offerings,” advised by Prof. Kenneth Hanson [English 1954–86]. She credited Reed for providing an intellectual foundation that set the course for her work as a teacher, and for establishing her enthusiasm for art, music, philosophy, poetry, and literature.

After graduating from Reed, she joined Dirk, who was working as an engineer at Boeing. They raised two children, Keith and Robin, at their home on Mercer Island. Passionate about art, Ruthie became a volunteer docent at the Seattle Art Museum and took ceramic classes at the University of Washington, the Archie Bray Foundation, and Pottery Northwest under such influential instructors as Robert Sperry, Ken Ferguson, and Dave Shaner.

In the ’60s, she began teaching English, art, photography, ceramics, and humanities at Issaquah High School and then moved to Mercer Island High School, where she taught until retiring in 2002. Even when teaching, Ruthie found time to work on her ceramic pottery and sculpture in the private studio Dirk built for her. She loved exploring the world and creating photos for her art history lectures, often traveling with students and former students, leading marathon-paced itineraries.

Having spent most of her adult life on Mercer Island, Ruthie retired to Orcas Island, where she reveled in the beauty of the island, her book club, and hosting visitors at her oceanfront home. Eventually she moved back to the Bay Area, where her surviving child, Keith, and his family could better attend to her needs and allow time with her great-grandchildren. She was a streadfast supporter of Reed.

Appeared in Reed magazine: December 2021

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