Ruth Colvin, who received an honorary degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in 1992, is one of 10 people who were honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom this month by President George W. Bush.
Since 1962, Colvin has dedicated her life’s work to literacy since the time she discovered that more than 11,000 people in her hometown of Syracuse couldn’t read. She later created Literacy Volunteers of America. The organization later merged with Laubach Literacy International and today operates under ProLiteracy Worldwide. Today the institution represents 1,200 community-based volunteer and adult basic education affiliates in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
“Her work has inspired others to lead lives of service and devote their time and talents to combating illiteracy. The United States honors Ruth Johnson Colvin for her extraordinary efforts to provide hope and opportunity to people everywhere,” said President Bush during the Dec. 15 ceremony.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest honor awarded to civilians. The medal recognizes high achievement in public service, science, the arts, education, athletics and other fields.
Other recipients this year were B.B. King, blues musician; William Safire, former presidential speech writer and columnist; David McCullough, historian, author and Pulitzer Prize winner; Nathan Sharansky, Russian civil liberties advocate; Norman Mineta, former secretary of transportation; John Jordan “Buck” O’Neil, former chairman, Negro Leagues Baseball Museum (accepted by his brother Warren O’Neil); Dr. Norman Francis, chair Educational Testing Service; Joshua Lederberg, Nobel Prize winner and genetics researcher; and Paul Johnson, historian and author.