2011 Archives

Ruth Altshuler honored with SMU’s J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award

March 15, 2011

By Denise Gee
SMU News

Ruth Altshuler
Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler

DALLAS (SMU) — The wide-ranging accomplishments of philanthropic trailblazer Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler were celebrated March 10 when she was honored as the 2011 recipient of the J. Erik Jonsson Ethics Award presented by SMU’s Cary Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility.

Among those paying tribute to Altshuler were SMU President R. Gerald Turner; Nancy G. Brinker, founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation and former Ambassador to Hungary; Maguire Center Director Rita Kirk; Nancy Strauss Halbreich, J. Erik Jonsson Award Luncheon event chair; and Altshuler’s daughter, Sally Sharp Harris. Also in attendance was former First Lady Laura Bush.

The setting, the newly renovated Martha Proctor Mack Grand Ballroom at SMU’s Umphrey Lee Center, was fitting for the day’s tribute, Turner said. “This room as it is now is because of Ruth’s vision to see it transformed — as so many things are because of her vision,” he said of Mrs. Altshuler, the longest serving member of SMU’s Board of Trustees and a co-chair of the University’s Second Century Campaign. He praised her “generous spirit, and her commitment to upholding the most stellar ethical leadership in everything she does.”

Maguire Center Director Rita Kirk — a past recipient of the Ruth Altshuler Distinguished Teaching Award — followed by noting that “ethics and ethical leadership start at the top,” and credited President Turner and SMU Provost Paul Ludden with inspiring greatness at the University by “stirring the conversation of ethics.”

Kirk noted that in Altshuler’s honor, a new summer internship has been dedicated. Filling that role will be Meera Nair, an undergraduate student in computer science at the Lyle School of Engineering. This summer Nair will volunteer to help develop a process to track the individual development of special needs children in her native India.

Inspirational selfless giving was the theme of many tributes to Altshuler.

“I cannot imagine anyone who is more inspirational,” Brinker said of Altshuler, one of the first philanthropic champions of the Susan G. Komen Foundation. Added Halbreich, “Ruth is the least pretentious person I’ve ever met. Each day she shows me that love is better than hate; candor better than artifice.”

Altshuler’s daughter’s expression of admiration for her mother was tinged with emotion. “As my mother’s sidekick, I learned how to love,” said Sharp, who shared early memories of her mother being deeply moved by others’ tragedies — enough to make a real difference in their lives. “Mother has always believed that there was something she could do to help others. And she has done her part, guided by her heart. She always believed that love is something you do.”

In response, Altshuler emphasized her love of family — her “blessings” of three children and seven grandchildren. She closed by reading an anonymously written poem that she dedicated to SMU, The Salvation Army and the United Way “which mean more to me than anything,” she said: “I sought my soul, but my soul I could not see. I sought my God, but my God eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.”

For more information about Altshuler’s many achievements, and additional information about the J. Erik Jonsson Award and the Maguire Center, visit: http://www.smu.edu/News/2011/ruth-altshuler-award-09mar2011.aspx

News Media Contact:
Denise Gee

Ruth Altshuler with Nancy Brinker and Laura Bush
Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler (center) with former First Lady Laura Bush (right) and Nancy Brinker, founder and CEO of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Breast Cancer Foundation.
Ruth Altshuler with Nancy Holbreich, Sally Sharp Harris and R. Gerald Turner
(l. to r.) Nancy Halbreich, event chair; Mrs. Altshuler's daughter Sally Sharp Harris;  Ruth Collins Sharp Altshuler; and SMU President R. Gerald Turner.
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