STEWART--Ruth Ann. Ruth Ann Stewart, beloved wife of thirty years of historian David Levering Lewis, died of ovarian cancer on Friday morning, May 30. After three and half heroic years of struggle largely shielded from public awareness, Ruth chose to enter palliative/hospice care at our home rather than to undergo yet another chemotherapy cycle. She suffered minimal pain. She remained vitally engaged, responding to many written messages, receiving family, friends, professional colleagues, and sharing firm views about the state of our world and how to make it better, until her spirit waned in the last few days. A month earlier, three generations of Stewart family members shared her 72nd birthday. On Mother's Day, daughter Allegra and two generations of Lewises took her on a carriage ride through Central Park. She planned to attend both Wheaton College's commencement in Massachusetts, of which she was alumna and former trustee, and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's annual Sakura Matsuri festival, whose devoted trustee she was also. From modest origins in Chicago's Hyde Park, where parents Elmer and Ann Stewart nurtured discipline and ambition, Ruth Ann (as she was invariably called by everyone except her husband) traveled remarkable distances geographically and professionally on the wings of high adventure, intelligence, administrative genius, and a personality that stunned her husband forever. From Chicago to her bachelors degree at Wheaton College, to an M.S. from Columbia University's school of library science, to associate director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, to assistant director of publications of the New York Public Library during the transformative days of Vartan Gregorian, to Washington as Assistant Librarian of Congress for National Programs until Librarian Daniel Boorstin's retirement, after which she served as senior policy analyst in arts, humanities and social legislation at the Congressional Research Service. Recognized as a pioneer in the field of public arts policy, Rutgers University invited her to serve as clinical professor in its new Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. During a decade of service as clinical professor of Public Policy at NYU's Robert F. Wagner's School of Public Service, she co-edited Understanding the Creative Sector in the United States (Rutgers 2008), now a benchmark in the field. Her life of Booker T. Washington's daughter, Portia (Doubleday 1977), contributed meaningfully to feminist biography. Ruth served as board member of the Smithsonian Institution's Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. She is survived by husband David, daughter Allegra Stewart, brother Donald and sister-in-law Isabel Stewart of Chicago, nephews Jay of Washington and Carter Stewart of Columbus, Ohio, stepsons Eric of Berwyn, PA, and Jason Lewis of San Diego, CA, stepdaughter Allison Lewis of Washington and granddaughters Marissa and Natalie Wilson, and Stewart great nieces and nephews Nicole, Corinne, Jonathan, and Ulyses. Paternal aunt Yolande Bustos resides in California. Donations may be made in her name to Wheaton College and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. A bronze memorial plaque identifies Ruth's scarlet oak in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The place and date of her memorial service will be announced soon.

Published by New York Times on Jun. 8, 2014.
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17 Entries
dmaria watson
June 2, 2020
I pray that our Lord and Savior will comfort you and your loved ones during your time of bereavement.
Peggy Alsup
July 7, 2014
As we were, best friends in high school and beyond: Ruth Ann, Diane, Pat and me. Three had known each other since childhood. I, the newcomer, was nonetheless part of the glue that held us all together. We played at one another's houses, went to Jack and Jill dances and basement parties together, formed our own gold pin sorority, the Lassies, and performed together in the high school talent show. My mom sold World Book encyclopedias with Ann, Ruth Ann's mom.

After high school and college, three of us drifted to the West Coast, while Ruth Ann remained in the East to carve out a distinguished and illustrious career, marry and raise a daughter. She never forgot us, nor we her. Throughout, and in her later years, she reached out to us in her own special way, and we responded, as best friends do. We were as we had been: Best friends forever.

Sincere condolences to big brother Donald, who has now lost both mother, father and sister; to life partner David and chosen daughter Allegra; and to family, friends and colleagues who will miss her as much as we do.

And, thank you, Ruth Ann, for reaching out to me one more time to serendipitously place David's beautiful and loving account of your life and passing into my hands, so I could quickly inform the others. Rest in peace, sweet friend. We all are as we always have been, the very best of friends.
Toni Frazer
July 4, 2014
Honoring Ruth Ann's vibrant, inspiring, thrillingly clear and frank voice and her commitment to truth and joy in equal measures. She inspired generations of students, as well as her colleagues. She is irreplaceable and beloved!
Susan Sandler
June 28, 2014
Ruth Ann and I met more than forty years ago. We were two independent, career-minded women from the mid-west who arrived in New York in the late sixties and met on our first job, and remained friends until the end. Ruth Ann was, by far, my most interesting friend. She always knew what to read, see and do and could hold her own with top educators, and politicians. Yet she never forgot about the important things in one's life. And regardless of her often hectic schedule, Allegra and David always came first. Watching Ruth Ann endure her heroic fight with cancer and make the final decision to stop the futile fight was awe inspiring. She taught me so much about life, and although her's ended too soon, she lived it to the fullest and it was a glorious life! My dear friend Ruth Ann shall be with me always.
betsy gould
June 15, 2014
My condolences to the Stewart and Lewis families.
Diana Lachatanere
June 13, 2014
I am so blessed to have know Ruth Ann. She was very special to me. To all the family, please receive my love and sympathy.
Velma Banks
June 12, 2014
Dear David, Allegra, Donald and Family,

I always admired and trusted Ruth Ann Stewart. Our parents were friends but I was not close to her until high school when she, Toni Robinson, Diane Porter, Sheila Goldberg, Carol Levy and I, along with others, were a crew and while we were each creative and bright, Ruth Ann was clearly brilliant and the self directed one. Planning to study library science, who could have guessed would have begun for her such a wonderful life's adventure? I will always cherish my visit with her in New York, when Allegra was just joining her life and the many talks we had later on about parenting, relationships, family and contributions to life. Another, our last visit together, was at my home in Los Angeles when we spent precious time sharing one of the greatest, most stimulating and enjoyable conversations ever. At one point, she pulled up the pillows and put her feet up to take a nap; then I knew that she felt at home and I was and am still grateful for our genuine friendship. I love Ruth Ann Stewart for being and expressing much of what I admire and for inspiring those qualities within all of us whom she touched.

My best thoughts and wishes for you, Ruth Ann's family. May you celebrate the joy of having held such a one as she so close. Sincerely,
Patricia Pratt
June 11, 2014
Ruth Ann and I have been friends since high school, and our mothers were close friends in more recent times. She was a wonderful, brilliant person who inspired so many. She will be sorely missed.
Franklin Coleman
June 10, 2014
Deepest condolences to the family and lots of love from the French Harkless family.
Buffa French
June 10, 2014
Throughout the 40 years that I knew Ruth-Ann she was a gracious family friend, a big sister ready with advise and a pragmatic neighbor. I enjoyed her most as we worked on a community development project a few years ago. I loved her sharp straight-forwardness. We shared many tidbits!
David, I honored her request. While I mourn her passing, I will think about some of the wonderful moments we shared, and I trust you will do the same.
D. Maria Watson
June 9, 2014
My deepest condolences to the family. Rose Ann was such a beautiful person.
Joyce Ladner
June 9, 2014
With sadness but with memories of a great woman who will be missed.
Ralph Eubanks
June 9, 2014
My condolences to her husband, her family and friends. To have known her was an honor and privilege. She generously shared with others the highest values of honesty, truth and keen intellect. Thank you, Ruth Ann

Ambassador Shirley E. Barnes, U.S. Ambassador (Ret.)
June 9, 2014
Ruth Ann will be greatly missed as a neighbor and friend. She died the way she lived, deliberately and with courage, which was her way, surrounded by the seeds she sowed, the love of family and friends. I pray that David and Allegra find comfort and peace in God's infinite grace.
sharon moore
June 8, 2014
With sorrow, but with admiration for a life well lived.
Peggy Cooper Davis
June 8, 2014
Gwendolyn Midlo Hall
June 8, 2014
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