Dr. Schmidt in the field with her microscope in 1968 in Czechoslovakia

Dr. Ruth A. M. Schmidt Memorial Scholarship

Dr. Ruth A. M. Schmidt was born April 22, 1916, in Brooklyn, New York. She was an American geologist and paleontologist who was a pioneer for women scientists.

As a woman geologist, Dr. Schmidt was way ahead of her time in her profession. She was one of the first woman geologists hired by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), beginning her federal career in 1943. She was part of a top-secret military geology unit that assisted the World War II effort. She opened the first USGS field office in Alaska, and played a key role in documenting the effects of the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964.

She was socially progressive, and as a result found herself inadvertently swept up in the infamous anti-Communist investigations in Washington, D.C. in the 1950s. She was exonerated, but she never spoke of this stressful personal ordeal.

She was the first geology professor at UAA, and founded the UAA Geology Department. After successive federal and state retirements, she continued working as a geology consultant until the age of 84.

A friend said, “Ruth was feisty, generous, and quick-witted. She never lost her Brooklyn accent or cut-to-the-chase style. She had a strong sense of ethics and social responsibility. Thanks to a long life of frugality, over 20 charitable organizations representing science education, conservation, social justice and the arts cumulatively benefited from over $1 million from her estate.”

As one of many charitable causes, Dr. Schmidt directed that a portion of her assets go to the University of Alaska Anchorage for geology students attending UAA, in hopes that they gain an appreciation of the role of earth sciences in human interaction with the land, and a strong sense of stewardship.

Dr. Schmidt died in Anchorage in 2014 just before her 98th birthday.

Information provided by Sally Gibert.


If you are interested in supporting students through the student opportunity fund this donor supports, please note the UAA scholarship name within the gift designation section at: Donate Now.