Ruth Batson Obituary
Ruth M. Batson, one of Boston’s best-known figures in education and civil rights, died October 28, in Boston, aged 82. Her outstanding career began with the NAACP Boston Branch. While representing the NAACP in local, regional and national capacities, her most renowned accomplishment occurred in the early 1960s when she led the challenge to the Boston Public School system for educational equality for African American students in Boston.
She had charged school administrators and the School Committee with ignoring “a basic American concept that equal opportunity should be available to all people regardless of race, color, or creed.”
Born in Roxbury, Batson attended Boston University (Master of Education degree) and Northeastern University. She retired as a tenured professor of psychiatry at Boston University School of Medicine Division of Psychiatry, after more than ten years.
She was a member of the board of visitors of Boston University’s School of Medicine; trustees, Boston City Hospital; member, Corporation of the Massachusetts General Hospital and former member of its board of trustees; and board member of Roxbury Community College Foundation.
She spent most of her life in the service of education and engaged in a host of organizational, legislative and legal activities. She was Project Director and author of The Black Educational Movement in Boston: A Sequence of Historical Events (1638-1975) a comprehensive chronology documenting the heroic efforts and contributions of African American parents to educational history in Boston. Northeastern University published the manuscript of nearly 900 pages in October, 2001.
Batson broke many barriers throughout her career. She was the first black woman on the Democratic National Committee and the first woman elected president of NAACP’s New England Regional Conference, a role in which she served from 1957 to 1960.
After serving as chairwoman of the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination form 1963 to 1966, she helped launched the Metco (Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity) voluntary desegregation program. As associate director then director, she helped guide Metco’s growth from transporting 225 black urban youngsters to sever suburbs to 1,125 children to 28 communities. She stepped down in 1969.
She was the founder in 1969 of the Ruth M. Batson Educational Foundation which provided grants to African American college students for tuition and emergency needs. The Batson Foundation also awards grants to educational institutions and community organizations whose program objectives reflect the philosophy of the Batson Foundation. In its 34 years of giving, the Batson Foundation has awarded over $1,200,000 in grants.
More recently Batson had directed the revitalized Museum of Afro American History on Beacon Hill, stepping down in 1990.
She leaves three grandsons and three daughters, Cassandra Way of Boston, Dorothy Owusu of Alexandra, Va. and Susan Batson of New York City.
Ms. Batson was strong believer in the fact that sick children could not adequately learn and therefore was a vocal advocate of medical education for students of color. Because of her financial support for medical students at Boston University School of Medicine, the school, under the leadership of Dr. Aram Chobanian, established the Ruth Batson Scholarship in 1997. Since that time the school has awarded more than $500,000 in scholarships to 40 Boston University Minority Medical Students, including four MD/PhD students. Each year Ms. Batson visited the medical center to have lunch with the Batson Scholars, hear their life’s stories and share her experiences, especially with the health care system in America. Her messages were deeply appreciated by the students.
All of us at Boston University will miss her vibrancy and inspirational wisdom.
Kenneth C. Edelin, M.D.