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Posted on September 28, 2017 | 9:32 a.m.

Scholarship Foundation Remembers its First President, Ruth Nadel

Source: Raissa Smorol for Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara

Ruth Nadel Click to view larger
Ruth Nadel

Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara CEO Candace Winkler has issued the following statement regarding the death of Ruth Nadel, who served as the nonprofit organization’s first president from 1962-65. Nadel died at age 103 on Sept. 25 at her home in Northridge.

“Ms. Nadel and her co-founders’ planning and vision were absolutely critical to the Scholarship Foundation’s success over the past five and half decades,” said Winkler.

“Our stature today as the nation’s largest community-based scholarship provider is due in no small part to her tenure as our first president. The organization has grown from giving nine $100 book awards in 1962 to awarding over $8.4 million this past May to 2,688 students," she said.

"In addition, the Scholarship Foundation crossed the significant milestone of having awarded over $100 million in its 55-year history. Following in the footsteps of such an inspirational leader is a tremendous honor for me.”

Nadel was a pioneer, second-wave feminist and tireless advocate for social justice.

In addition to co-founding the Scholarship Foundation, she championed workplace equity and engineered our nation’s earliest employer-supported childcare options for working families at the Department of Labor.

The Scholarship Foundation will honor her legacy by awarding a scholarship in her name in May. The following obituary was released by the Nadel family on Sept. 26.

Ruth Nadel, 1914-2017
 
Ruth Nadel, a second-wave feminist who championed workplace equity, co-founded the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, and engineered our nation’s earliest employer-supported childcare options for working families at the Department of Labor, has died at 103.

The cause was complications from a brain tumor, said her sons, who were with her at her home in Northridge, Calif., when she passed on September 25, 2017.

A pioneer who promoted the social capital of paid and unpaid work among women, Nadel entered the workforce at age 55, beginning a 21-year career as a policy advocate at the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau through the power of a resume built on two decades of community engagement and organizing.

As a homemaker raising four sons during the second quartile of her life, she participated in local politics; a favorite family story dates back to the late 1940s when her preschool-aged son was known to play dress up by slinging a purse on his arm and declaring, “I’m a mommy, and I’m going to a meeting.”

In the second half of her life, she would go on to forge farsighted and enduring child care and eldercare solutions, motivated by a sense of justice and idealism for a new generation of working women in the 1960s and 1970s and whose causes she supported in the decades since.

Born in 1914, six years before the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, Ruth Rosoff was an early feminist surrounded by men — a hard-working father who owned a midtown Manhattan restaurant, two brothers, and later a devoted husband of 55 years and four sons.

She was raised in New York City, graduated from Hunter College High School, and joined the first class to admit women at the City University of New York’s Baruch College.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s degree in education, she became a teacher as her young husband, Aaron “Harry” Nadel, earned his doctoral degree in psychology.

Following the birth of their first son in World War II, Ms. Nadel’s husband joined the Navy and she the ranks of housewives to raise her family.

When he returned from service, they moved to various cities as her husband’s career progressed, settling in Santa Barbara in 1957, where she became active in school politics and education initiatives.

Her involvement spurred her to co-found a scholarship foundation for Santa Barbara students unable to afford higher education: To launch the volunteer-led organization, she and a School Board member made pitches to neighbors, urging contributions with a theme of “Let’s see what we can dream” and seeding the nascent charity with nine “book award” grants for $100 in its first year.

Ms. Nadel became the first president of the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, where she served from 1962 to 1965.

Today the Foundation, the nation’s largest community-based scholarship program and still entirely privately funded, just crossed the $100 million mark, having benefitted 47,000 Santa Barbara County students in its 55-year history.

Fresh from her three-year term at the helm of the Scholarship Foundation, Ms. Nadel ran for and won a seat on the Santa Barbara County School Board.

In 1967, a week after her youngest son finished high school (where, as a School Board member, she handed out diplomas), she launched the second half of her life and moved to Washington, D.C., to join her husband who was doing psychological research in the private sector.

So began a half-century of immersion into Washington, D.C., society and politics, where she thrived on the buzz and influence of making public policy happen.

Ms. Nadel took the initiative to catalyze her unpaid work experience on her resume and was hired at the U.S. Labor Department’s Women’s Bureau to specialize in dependent care and rights for working families, where she designed and developed the first on-site, employer-supported child care center and related child care options, which she would later extend into eldercare options in the 1980s.

When she retired from paid work, as she called it, in 1989, Ms. Nadel continued to serve pro bono for various women’s and eldercare organizations well into her nineties, maintaining a full schedule of service as co-chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations Global Women’s Issues Task Force, the Woman’s National Democratic Club Board of Governors, Iona Citizens Advisory Council, the Older Women’s League, the Clearinghouse on Women's Issues, the League of Women Voters, and the American Association of University Women.

She was also appointed as a commissioner for the DC Commission on Aging, a post she held until she left Washington, D.C., for California at the age of 100.

Throughout her careers, paid and unpaid, Ms. Nadel joyfully mentored countless people, mostly women, at all stages of life and all levels of influence. Among her many sayings was a favorite, in which she affirmed, “I’m not proud; I’m grateful.”

As it turns out, the gratitude was disproportionately held by those whom she counseled, guided, and warmed with her wisdom, kindness, and generosity of spirit.

Her family, who called her Dolly, describes a woman who tirelessly pushed professional expectations, norms, and barriers, whose persistence well into her 104th year was wholly consistent with a life fiercely led on her own terms, with a resolve others could only marvel at, surpassing milestones most will never reach with breezy indifference as she aimed, undeterred, for the next justice — and equity-related challenge.

Her will to engage with the world doggedly prevailed until her final days, as she rebuffed the hindrances of aging in pursuit of time well spent in laughter and conversation. Ms. Nadel credited her longevity to two desserts a day; her family adds to that list several qualities in the extreme — outsized extraversion, undeterred focus, exceeding cheerfulness, unrelenting curiosity, and inspiring optimism — which kept her at the center of attention and the hub of activity among those who loved her and to an ever-widening circle even into her last days.

Ms. Nadel was predeceased by her husband, Harry, and her oldest son, Ethan Nadel; she is survived by sons John Nadel of Los Angeles, Gordon Nadel and his wife Patty of Jasper, Ore., and Roger Nadel and his wife Debbie of Oxnard, Calif., as well as nine grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren.

The family welcomes donations in Ruth Nadel’s name at the Women’s National Democratic Club, which, on the occasion of her 100th birthday, created The Ruth G. Nadel Leadership Award, given annually to an alumna of the Young Women’s Leadership Program to help defray costs of higher education. Visit http://democraticwoman.org/educational-foundation/scholarships/ to learn more.
 
The family also is grateful for contributions made in honor of Ruth Nadel to the Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara, https://www.sbscholarship.org/, which she co-founded in 1962 and which today is the largest community-based scholarship program in the country, supporting successful students with financial need pursue higher education goals.

Just this past May, the Foundation gave $8.4 million in scholarships to 2,688 recent graduates.

— Raissa Smorol for Scholarship Foundation of Santa Barbara.

 
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