Emeritus professor remembered for social justice work

Media Credit: Photo courtesy Shannon Wyss.

Ruth Ann Wallace, an emeritus sociology professor, spent 31 years at GW.

Friends and former colleagues said Ruth Ann Wallace was passionate about helping students and pushing academic boundaries.

The emeritus sociology professor died at the age of 83 earlier this month from a stroke and complications with Alzheimer’s disease, according to an obituary published by The Washington Post.

Wallace was a faculty member for 31 years and specialized in the sociology of religion, according to The Post.

Gregory Squires, the chair of the sociology department, posted a notice about Wallace’s death on the department’s website and said Wallace was an integral part of the department during her time at GW.

“Through her many books, journal articles, public lectures and other venues she was a pioneering voice in sociological theory, gender and religion,” Squires wrote.

Wallace earned many awards and visiting scholar appointments over the course of her career, including the American Sociological Association’s Jessie Bernard Award for scholarly work on the role of women in society, according to the memo.

“She will be missed by everyone who had the opportunity to know her,” Squires wrote.

After completing her bachelor’s at Immaculate Heart College in 1961, Wallace received a master’s in sociology at the University of Notre Dame and a Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, according to the department’s website.

A former president of the Association for the Sociology of Religion and the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion, Wallace received an award for her scholarly work on the role of women in society from the American Sociology Society in 1994, The Post reported.

Ivy Ken, an associate professor of sociology who worked closely with Wallace, said she remembers Wallace’s passion for education and commitment to her students.

“Dr. Wallace was a kind and generous mentor, guiding students who were interested in gender issues back when that was a really marginalized and risky endeavor,” Ken said in an email.

Steven Tuch, a professor of sociology who also worked with Wallace, said he admired her most for her integrity and contributions to the department and the University.

“Ruth Wallace was a wonderful scholar, colleague and friend, one who was possessed of unlimited optimism and good cheer. She was a superb role model for students and junior faculty alike,” Tuch said in an email.

Friends of Wallace remember her for her dedication to her faith, teaching, social justice and feminism.

Shannon Wyss, a long-time friend, said Wallace had an “unwavering” dedication to social justice, particularly her work on gender issues. Wyss said that when Wallace began her Ph.D. program, her adviser suggested she focus on something more “feminine,” like the sociology of the family.

“She promptly defied him and concentrated on sociological theory anyway,” Wyss said. “She continued to teach and publish around theory until she retired.”

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