by MaryAlice Bitts Jackson
Ruth Cardell Kaufman ’43 has led a fulfilling life as a scientist, wife, mother and Dickinsonian, and this year she traveled back to campus to celebrate the 75th anniversary of her class during Alumni Weekend—and to reminisce.
Ruth grew up on a farm in Elysburg, Pa., and she excelled in the sciences from an early age. At Dickinson, she declared a chemistry major and served as class officer and member of Student Senate, Phi Mu, Lambda Sigma Pi, the Mohler Scientific Club and the Sophomore Protestant Club. To help meet the roughly $800 annual tuition, she worked several student jobs.
America entered World War II during her junior year. It was an anxious time: Students oversaw blackouts at their fraternities and sororities, and food and gas were rationed. An accelerated academic program and rigorous phys ed regimen helped prepare male students for the service. And in 1943, more than 500 Air Force cadets took a five-month aviation course on campus. This somber backdrop didn’t prevent love from blooming when Ruth met Zane “Pat” Kaufman ’45, a musician and fellow chemistry major, during a chemistry class.
“He had two brothers [Ray ’35 and Dick ’40], and I was told that he was the good brother,” Ruth recalled with a grin, noting that according to family lore, Dick had scaled Old West to capture the mermaid.
After a yearlong courtship, Pat entered the U.S. Navy. He served in the South Pacific from 1943 to ’46, and he married Ruth soon after his return. Pat completed his B.S. at Franklin & Marshall College and his M.S. at the University of Kentucky. After working as a research chemist in New Jersey, he discovered his calling as a chemistry teacher and professor. He retired from Lock Haven University in 1988 and passed in 2005.
Ruth held several bench chemist and teaching positions and also raised two daughters, Susan and Amy. She often assisted Pat in his classroom and lab.
During Alumni Weekend, Ruth enjoyed an on-campus picnic with family and stopped by familiar landmarks. She was pleased to see a burning glass, once owned by Joseph Priestley, in a case in the Waidner-Spahr Library archives (“When I was a student, it was in a dingy corner in the science building!”), and while she missed seeing classmates who’ve passed, she enjoyed recalling her undergrad days.
“Dickinson is the place where I met my husband,” she said. “And it gave me the education I needed to get a job in my field before I even graduated. I’m very proud of that.”
Published August 3, 2018