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Ruth Wright-Hayre

February 21, 2010

Born and raised in West Philadelphia, Ruth Wright-Hayre (1910-1998) was a product of a rich educational heritage, and in turn left her own academic and civic imprint on the city. She finished Penn undergrad in three years, then completed a Masters in education a year later. After begining her teaching career in the South, she returned to Philadelphia to become the first Black high school teacher in the city, and later, the first Black HS principal. When she completed her Ph.D. in education at Penn in 1949, she and her father became the first African-American father and daughter Ph.D. recipients from the university. In 1991, she became the first female president of the Philadelphia School Board.

Wright-Hayre’s autobiography, Tell Them We Are Rising, tells the story of her family’s commitment to education and her own trailblazing path. It also details the joys and struggles of one of her last legacies, establishing a college fund for 119 elementary students from the Richard Wright Elementary School (named after her grandfather) and Kenderton Elementary School, in North Philadelphia.

Brian Peterson
SEAS ’93, GSE ’97

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