Ruth Wildman Swenson


"She was in many ways a ‘mentor,’ facilitating the careers of other women wherever she could, making sure our accomplishments were noticed, that we were represented on committees, and offering support when it was needed."
—Marilyn D. Bachmann, 1988

Ruth Wildman Swenson is an outstanding scientist, university administrator, and advocate for women in sciences and engineering. As an emeritus professor of botany and emeritus associate dean of Sciences and Humanities at Iowa State University, she has been an innovator of programs to encourage and support women in nontraditional careers. Swenson was the Iowa coordinator for a national program to help women move into academic administration and co-directed a National Science Foundation project to increase the number of women in science. She developed and implemented internships, career conferences, and intensive role model projects for high school girls and undergraduate women aiming for technical/scientific careers. Additionally, she helped to initiate annual conferences on women in higher education and is oft-cited as an inspiration for women in academia. She now serves as president of the Iowa Academy of Science, honored in part for her research in cell biology, biochemistry, and the ecology of blue-green algae ("nuisance blooms") on Iowa lakes and ponds. She is also a supporter of local music, art, and social services programs in her community. She was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 1989.

UPDATE: Swenson has served on numerous boards, committees, and councils, including Ames International Orchestra Festival Association, Ames Town and Gown Chamber Music Association, Central Iowa Symphony Association, Emergency Residence Project, Episcopal Parish of Ames, University Museums, League of Women Voters of Ames, Mary Greeley Medical Center Auxiliary, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, Analysis of Social Services Evaluation Team, Infant Care Work Group, Healthland Senior Services Foundation, Youth & Shelter Services, ISU Archives of Women in Science and Engineering Advisory Board, ISU Department of Music Advisory Committee, ISU Liberal Arts & Sciences Dean’s Advisory Council, and Reiman Gardens Cohorts. She has finished her term as president of the Iowa Academy of Science.