Leo P. Ruth, prominent educator in teacher education and in the teaching of reading and writing, died peacefully at his home in Kensington, California, on May 3, 2012 after a brief illness. He was 85 years old.
Leo Ruth was born in Sacramento and grew up in Chico, California. After high school, he attended Chico State College and graduated with a B.A. in history. Then, at the University of California, Berkeley, he earned a Master’s Degree. Later, he studied for and was awarded a PhD from UC Berkeley. Both advanced degrees were in the field of education. Leo started out teaching English at Yuba City High School. After 3 years he moved to the Bay Area where he taught English and reading at San Leandro High school for 10 years, also serving as English Department Chairman. Then Leo was hired by the Graduate School of Education at UC Berkeley as a Supervisor of Teacher Education, where he remained for 32 years, retiring in 1991. Hundreds of teachers throughout Central California and beyond — Leo’s former student teachers — remember with pride and gratitude his firm guidance and warm, empathic support in the formative days of their own careers.
Leo was committed to enhancing and recognizing the importance of classroom teachers in their struggles against uninformed social and political influences. Professional publications include “Who Has the Power? Policymaking and Politics in the English Language Arts,” in Handbook of Research on Teaching the English Language Arts, ed. James Squire, et al (2003); editor of the “Assessment” section in Encyclopedia of English Studies and Language Arts, Alan Purves, Gen. Ed. (1994); author, with Sandra Murphy, of Designing Writing Tasks for the Assessment of Writing (1988); editor of two editions of reading textbooks for 7th and 8th grade. Leo was also an influential member of the National Council of Teachers of English, the California Association of Teachers of English, and the Central California Curriculum Study Commission.
Leo Ruth’s life was all about books and reading. He was a founding member of a small, dedicated reading group of older academics like himself who still looked to him for advice on how to get the best out of a book. Leo also loved theatre, state fairs, jazz festivals, travel, and cats, interests he shared with Deborah, the love of his life.
Leo Ruth is survived by Deborah, his wife of 43 years; two brothers — Al Ruth and his wife Diana; and Leland Ruth and his wife Therese, five nephews and two nieces, plus seven grand-nieces and nephews.
A private interment was held at Sunset View Cemetery. On Saturday, June 9, a tribute to his life will take place at 11 am in the Dashow Wing of the Aurora Theatre, 2081 Addison St., Berkeley. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be sent to The Diablo Vista Retired Teachers Association and The Curriculum Study Commission of the Central California Council of Teachers of English; the Landmark Heritage Society of the Berkeley City Club; the Aurora Theatre and the Berkeley Repertory Theatre.