Robert F. Greenhill ’54 and his late wife Gayle honored the life and influence of one of Gilman’s most inspiring teachers, role models, outstanding educators, and trailblazers, Ruth Weaver Williams, with a $2 million leadership gift to First Things First, which will establish an endowed faculty chair.
The Robert F. Greenhill ’54 and Gayle G. Greenhill-Ruth W. Williams Distinguished Teaching Chair for Mathematics satisfies a key First Things First campaign priority to support teaching and learning. The endowed fund will assist the School in recruiting and retaining superb faculty members.
Former colleagues and students remember Ruth Williams for her mastery of mathematics, academic versatility, deep concern for her students, and diligence as an advisor. She understood her students’ and advisees’ strengths and weaknesses, and she was the kind of teacher who spent her afternoons driving around the MIAA to cheer on her students at their games.
“Ruth has been a friend and a role model for all who knew her,” says Mr. Greenhill.
Williams taught at Gilman in two stints, 1972-1979 and 1995-2011, spending 10 years teaching in the Lower School before moving to the Upper School, where she taught every mathematics class offered at Gilman. During her career, she taught at RPCS, Bryn Mawr, Garrison Forest, and Goucher. She retired in June 2011. A few months later, she died of lung cancer, on September 7, 2011.
In a Gilman News article at the time of Williams’ retirement, Matt Schlerf ’11 wrote, “If there’s one thing to be remembered besides her sanguine mentality, her selfless compassion, and her history as a Gilman legend, it’s her favorite saying regarding division by zero and life in general: ‘Remember . . . you can’t sit on a beach ball!’ ”
“Mrs. Williams taught me to do what my heart told me to do,” remarked John Durham ’11, in the News following Williams’ death. “Success will always come to those who work hard enough to obtain it, but it’s also important to have fun in life and prioritize correctly.”
The first Williams Chair will be awarded in 2019. To honor Williams’ legacy, the chair will honor an experienced faculty member in the Math department who emulates the same qualities as the chair’s namesake: teaching acumen, scholarship, and deep dedication to students both in and out of the classroom.
For as much as this chair credits Ruth Williams’ legacy as a Gilman teacher, it also honors her family’s deep connections to the School. A Bryn Mawr graduate, Williams met her husband and soul mate, Dr. McRae Williams ’54, during high school. Her brother, Alva Weaver, graduated from Gilman in 1949, as did McRae’s brothers Palmer F. C. Williams, Jr. in 1947 and Robert R. Williams in 1948 and his father Palmer F. C. Williams in 1919. Ruth and McRae’s son McRae W. Williams is a member of the class of 1989.
Join the Tribute
The Robert F. Greenhill ’54 and Gayle G. Greenhill-Ruth W. Williams Distinguished Teaching Chair for Mathematics is very much the result of several people who knew her and McRae Williams ‘54 best. The Class of 1954’s extraordinary class secretary, Ralph L. DeGroff ’54, followed Mr. Greenhill’s example and directed his own First Things First leadership gift toward the chair. Their combined generosity encouraged their classmates to contribute as well. To date, more than $2.28 million has been raised in total.
The fund remains open to contributions from classmates and former students who wish to join this tribute to help perpetuate Ruth Williams’s educational legacy at Gilman. To make a gift, please make contributions payable to Gilman School, noting the Ruth Williams Chair on the memo. Please mail to: Gilman School – Development Office, Attn: M. Kate Ratcliffe, Director of Development, 5407 Roland Avenue, Baltimore, MD 21210. Or, give online at gilman.edu/onlinegiving.