Biographies > Smith College
Chester, Ruth Miriam (1894-1997)

Ruth Chester was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1894. Having graduated first in her high school class at the age of sixteen, she received her Bachelor's degree from Smith College in 1914. After spending a year teaching high school in Chester, New York, Chester returned to Smith, where she earned her Master's degree in Chemistry (1916). She spent a year teaching at Elmira College in New York before going to China in 1917 to be Head of the Chemistry Department at Ginling College, Nanking, a position she held until 1947. During her leaves of absence from Ginling, Chester worked toward her Ph.D., which she received from Columbia University in 1934. She continued to teach at Ginling during the war, when the Japanese occupation of Nanking forced the college to move to Chengtu in West China. In 1947, the Presbyterian Church appointed Dr. Chester as their missionary to Ginling, although the appointment made little practical difference in the work she had already been doing at Ginling for thirty years under the auspices of the College Board. During the postwar years, she stepped down from her position as Head of the Chemistry Department to serve as Ginling's Dean of Studies. In the wake of the People's Revolution, the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions transferred her in 1951 to Forman Christian College in Lahore, Pakistan, where she served until her retirement in 1959. In 1966, she was awarded the Smith College Medal in recognition of her work as an educator. She died in 1997.

Ruth Chester with Minnie Vautrin at Ginling, n.d.

Ruth Chester at 1922 Ginling commencement

"Miss Ruth Chester, a Smith Graduate, Describes Ginling" from the Smith College Weekly, 10 May 1933, p. 10

Letter from Ruth Chester, dated 6 November 1939

Letter from Ruth Chester, dated 14 December 1948

Letter from Ruth Chester, dated 13 November 1949

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