Ruth M. Paven was among the first women admitted to Harvard Law School, then transferred before her final year and in 1953 became the first woman to graduate from Georgetown University Law Center.
After returning to Massachusetts she represented the Woodward School for Girls, her alma mater in her hometown of Quincy, which she credited with laying the foundation for her pioneering legal career. The late founder, Dr. Ebenezer Woodward, had left money for a private school that would educate Quincy-born girls. He specified in his will that if the school failed to do so, his endowment should revert to his alma mater, Dartmouth College.
Facing higher operating costs and fluctuating enrollments in the late 1960s, the private Woodward School decided to admit girls from other towns and charge them more tuition than Quincy girls, and Dartmouth went after the endowment in court. To help keep her alma mater open, Mrs. Paven took the case all the way to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court, which rejected Dartmouth’s claim in 1970.
“She was a champion for Woodward at every turn,” the school’s current head, Carol Andrews, said in remarks last month to students during annual Founder’s Night festivities, which were dedicated this year to Mrs. Paven. “Her many achievements mainly focused on advancing and helping others and her sense of responsibility and civic virtue make her a singular role model to the young women of the Woodward School.”
Mrs. Paven, who spent much of her legal career representing the Massachusetts Nurses Association and state divisions of labor and capital planning, died from complications of dementia March 21 in the Linden Ponds retirement community in Hingham. She was 86.
“She was just a wonderful person, extremely practical and likable. She had great relations with everyone she came across,” said Robert P. Garrity, an attorney who was counsel for the state’s capital planning and operations division in the early 1980s when he hired Mrs. Paven based on her expertise in state bidding laws.
Her skills and friendly demeanor won respect from those in the predominantly male world of state construction contracts then, he said. “They all loved Ruth because she was fair and she knew her business. I can’t think of one person who didn’t respect her, even if they disagreed with her,” Garrity said.
Born in Weymouth and raised in Quincy, Mrs. Paven was the only child of Hyman Marshall and the former Ann Nankin. Her father, who emigrated from Eastern Europe, was an engineer who studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ran his own home heating oil business. Her mother had studied piano at New England Conservatory.
Source: The Boston Globe