Ruth B. Cowan

Founding Chair and Director Emerita

Ruth B. Cowan served as president of the Board from its founding until 2000, during which she assumed responsibility for board development. Her perspectives on institutional revitalization, including board development, were featured at higher education seminars and conferences and in articles.

Ruth is a political scientist interested in democracy development through the rule of law in South Africa and in Native American efforts to reclaim their sovereignty. She has written for the World Bank about the role of the courts in matters of private debt default in El Salvador.

Ruth has a long history of active engagement in advancing human rights, with particular emphasis on the status of women. She chaired the New York statewide meeting preparatory to the first United Nations international Conference on Women and led various panels at the subsequent international meetings; represented the City of New York at the 1995 International Women’s meeting in Beijing; chaired the New York City Commission on the Status of Women during two mayoral administrations; served on the Board of Directors of the U.S Committee for UNIFEM; and was a founding member on the Board of Directors of the’ Women’s Leadership Foundation.

As a result of her work on behalf of human rights, the Council for Human Rights in Latin America invited her to join its delegation in observing the Nicaraguan elections of 1990.