By Mallory Sherwood, Managing Editor
Friends, family, faculty and staff of ACU gathered Thursday at University Church of Christ to celebrate the life of Ruth Stevens, wife of Dr. John Stevens, the university’s eighth president.
Ruth, who was 80 years old, died Feb. 18 at her home while in hospice care after nearly a year of declining health.
Dr. Royce Money, president of the university, and Dr. Eddie Sharp, pulpit minister at UCC and instructor of Bible, missions and ministry, were two of three men who spoke at Ruth’s funeral. They described her as strong, extremely talented and a volunteer extraordinaire – just a few of her many attributes, Money said.
Money said the funeral was a moving and appropriate tribute to Ruth.
“Her life was her eulogy,” he said. “All we did was remind people what Ruth was really like and that she was a woman of faith.”
Money said it was an honor to be asked by the family to speak at her funeral, while it was both easy and hard.
“Her life really speaks for itself, so it was easy to talk about who she was and what she did,” he said. “Its hard because in doing so, we’ve lost a dear friend. It was hard to see my friend, Dr. Stevens, mourning his lifelong friend.”
Money said he and his wife, Pam, had been close to the Stevens since John was president.
He became friends with the Stevens when he was still in college and then became closer after John retired.
“Ruth was a role model to Pam of what a president’s wife should look like,” Money said, “and they were constant encouragers to us both.”
Sharp said he and his family have always respected the Stevens.
“You can’t be president of ACU unless you have a wife that is ready, willing and able because it’s a two-person team,” he said. “That is exactly what Ruth was.
“She was a great president’s wife because she was for him, for the school, for students and for always making things better and better.”
The team effort the Stevens used during John’s presidency continued after he retired and joined the History Department’s staff as a professor.
“His teaching was a team effort, too,” Money said. “She attended all his lectures that first year and wrote and graded his tests after she saw the kind of tests he wrote. They were a great team, and he was one of our most popular professors ever.”
In addition to the speeches of Money, Sharp and Dr. Milton Fletcher, a family friend, Money said he was able to read a letter from Dr. William Teague, the university’s ninth president. Money said the letter was a tribute to Ruth’s life and a recollection of who she was. He said the Teague and Stevens families had been close friends for many years.
Sharp also read a letter from Joe Baisden, a member of the Board of Trustees who was another close friend of the Stevens family.
The A Cappella Chorus sang, “Shall We Gather at the River,” one of Ruth’s favorite hymns, as well.
Ruth was a teacher, musician, supporter of the arts and much more, Money said.
He said she was instrumental in cataloging the library, archiving presidential documents and all issues of the Optimist, too.
She was buried at Elliot-Hamil cemetery, beside Dr. Charles Trevathan, a professor of sociology and social work who died Oct. 12, 2004, after suffering an apparent heart attack.
Money said the community lost an important figure in ACU’s history with Ruth’s death.
“Between the two of them, more than 50 years span their contact with ACU, not including when they were students,” he said. “She was a great first lady of ACU.”