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Women of the Hall

Year Honored: 1993
Birth: 1916 -
Born In: Illinois,
Achievements: Education
Educated In: Illinois, New York
Schools Attended: Thornton Junior College, Moser Business College, Northwestern University, Syracuse University
Worked In: New York, Madagascar, Papua New Guinea, Zambia, Guatemala, Pakistan, Somalia, China

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Ruth Colvin

Ruth Johnson Colvin saw a problem - pervasive adult illiteracy - and used formidable organizing skills and tenacity to help solve it through the creation of Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. 

Colvin learned the scope of illiteracy in l962 when she discovered that more than 11,000 people in the upstate New York county where she lived could not read.  Her life was transformed as she undertook the necessary training needed to help correct the situation. 

She determined that traditional classroom methods would not work and instead focused on the development of community networks in which a climate was created that empowered adult learners in new ways.  The organization developed tutor training programs, special materials, community support components and a model that involves people from all walks of life in a community.  Former dropouts became tutors, as did bank presidents, educators and many others. In 2002, Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc. merged with Laubach Literacy International to form ProLiteracy.  Of her sometimes daunting work, Colvin has said, "If you believe in your idea, you go from there.  If you do it with love, it will work out."

During her more than over four decades of literacy work, Colvin has published nine books, and visited or worked in more than sixty countries.  In 2006, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in Education from President George W. Bush. 

More than 400,000 learned to read through Literacy Volunteers of America programs, in more than 460 locations operating in 40 states. Colvin continues to travel internationally to share her knowledge‚ exemplifying the power of one individual to change the world for the better.
Additional Sources:

In the Beginning was the World: teaching reading & writing through the Bible. Syracuse, New York: Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc., 1994.

A Way with Words, the story of the Literacy Volunteers of America. New York: Literacy Volunteers of America, Inc., 1987.