Ruth Woodall is the recipient of the 2021 Charles Lathrop Parsons Award awarded by the ACS Board of Directors. The award recognizes outstanding public service by an ACS member.
“Ruth has devoted her life to service to science and to improving lives through science,” says E. Ann Nalley, a professor of chemistry at Cameron University, who has worked closely with Woodall over the years. “I can think of no one who is better qualified for this award.”
“Ruth is an exceptional educator who is passionate about connecting chemistry to real-world issues,” says Judith M. Iriarte-Gross, professor of chemistry at Middle Tennessee State University. “She realizes that STEM education is of utmost importance for the future of our state and country and shares her concerns with local, state, and national government officials. She is an amazing volunteer who gives back to her community, to STEM, chemical education, and to the ACS.”
Woodall says it’s an honor to receive the award but that she has never been one to seek recognition for her work. “I do it because I love what I do,” she says.
A retired high school chemistry teacher, Woodall has always considered herself a public servant. “I started early thinking about ways that I can reach the public,” she says. Today, Woodall serves as executive director and founder of the nonprofit Tennessee Scholars, a workforce development program that supports high school students.
Her contributions to public service include serving on the ACS Committee on Public Relations and Communications, the Committee on Community Activities, and the Women Chemists Committee. She has been chair of National Chemistry Week since 1994 and a coordinator of Chemists Celebrate Earth Week for over 10 years. She has been a volunteer on public outreach for ACS for 26 years and has been a society tour speaker, discussing education and public relations.
In addition, Woodall has been an active member of the ACS Nashville Section since the early 1990s. As chair of her local section’s Government Affairs Committee, she helps ACS members set up meetings with their state representatives.
Woodall earned a BS in chemistry from Union University and an MS in chemistry and education from Memphis State University.
Woodall says she has gotten more from her involvement with ACS than she has given. “I encourage every member to get involved,” she says. “If you’re not active in some way, either in your local section or in the American Chemical Society, you’re not getting the full benefit of your membership.”