Chalkboard Champion Ruth Clausen was also an honored conservationist

There are many examples of fine educators who have made significant achievements in the political realm. One such educator was Ruth Chickering Clausen, an English teacher from Wisconsin who was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to serve in the US Department of Energy. Ruth was born in 1922 in Bruce, Rusk County, Wisconsin. After her 1938 graduation from high school in Eau Clair at the age of 15, Ruth enrolled at the University of Wisconsin in Eau Claire. She graduated in 1945 with a degree in secondary education. At about that time, Ruth married her husband, Donald Clusen, a teacher at the state reformatory. The couple settled in Green Bay, and Ruth accepted a teaching position as an instructor of English and speech. In Green Bay, Ruth joined the League of Women Voters, serving as their environmental chairperson for eight years. She served as the League’s national president from 1974-1978. During this time, Ruth organized the first voter-sponsored presidential debates between candidates Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, the first nationally televised presidential debates since 1960. Her performance during these debates made Ruth so recognizable that she was once spoofed by Lily Tomlin in an episode of Saturday Night Live. Following the election, President Carter appointed Ruth the Assistant Secretary of Energy for the Environment in the US Department of Energy. During this time, she ensured the passage of the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act. From 1978-1981, Ruth was selected to be a member of the US delegation to the first United Nations Conference on Women in Mexico City. After leaving government service, Ruth returned to the field of education, serving on the Board of Regents for the University of Wisconsin from 1983-1992. For her impressive achievements, Ruth was named Woman of the Year by the Ladies Home Journal in 1977. In 1978, she was honored as the International Conservationist of the Year by the National Wildlife Federation. She has also been inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in 2001. This chalkboard champion passed away on March 14, 2005, in Bellevue, Wisconsin, from complications from Alzheimer’s. She was 82 years old.¬†She is interred in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.