It is with great sadness that the UMKC Women’s Center shares that our founder, Ruth Margolin, has passed away. In her 98 years on the planet, she accomplished many things, but for us, laying the foundation of the UMKC Women’s Center has impacted us and so many before us the most. When we say we stand on the shoulders of giants, the life of Ruth Margolin symbolizes this. Each person on our staff is deeply committed to the work we do for our great university, and we know that without our founder saying YES to her best ideas, none of this would be possible. So, when you come into the Women’s Center to enjoy a coffee, read from our library, gaze upon the quilts and art, or simply exist in community with other women, know that it was Ruth Margolin who made that happen.
We will be formally honoring her life here in the Women’s Center later next week, details to come.
For now we encourage you to read about her life and please share your memories of her or of the UMKC Women’s Center that she loved so dearly.
Ruth Margolin, age 98, passed away peacefully on October 8, 2023 at the Village Shalom Retirement Community.
Ruth was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1925 to Frieda and Joseph Levin. Growing up in St. Louis in the 1930’s was a difficult time for Jews and their families. Ruth saw her parents and grandparents stereotyped and excluded from opportunities, and these experiences profoundly influenced her life choices.
In 1944, while volunteering at Council House, a local settlement house, she met Sol Margolin, a social worker and teacher at Washington University. They fell in love and married in 1945. Soon thereafter, they moved to Louisville, Kentucky where Sol joined the Jewish Community Center as the Assistant Director. In 1950, the young couple moved to Kansas City where Sol joined the staff at the Jewish Community Center. Ruth soon became involved in the Kansas City community as an active volunteer.
As President of the local B’nai B’rith chapter, Ruth initiated new programs. She joined the Panel of American Women in 1963. The Panel was comprised of a Catholic, a Jew, a white Protestant, and an African-American Christain. Their focus was to promote understanding and respect among people of different races, religions, and cultures.
As a couple, Ruth and Sol were a team. Ruth was at Sol’s side when he became the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Center. Sol was Ruth’s advocate as he encouraged her to return to college, complete her Master’s degree, and launch what would become a remarkably successful career.
While completing her coursework, she became active in the Department of Women’s Studies, and after graduation began her 33-year career at UMKC. She became the founding Director of the Women’s Center in 1983. She championed and expanded programming to advocate for, educate, and provide essential support in the pursuit of women’s equality. Additionally, she pioneered programs empowering young women to succeed in the workplace. Ahead of her time, she skillfully balanced a successful career with the joys of motherhood.
During her career, she received numerous awards for her work in the greater Kansas City area including the Chancellor’s Award for Public Service, the first recipient of Woman of the Year Award at the Central Exchange, the “Women of Achievement Award” from the Mid-Continent Council of Girl Scouts, and more. She participated in designing and implementing programs for women in many agencies within the community.
The legacy of her work continued. Ruth was often recognized, stopped by many, and told how her programs, seminars, and efforts had influenced their life’s decisions. Ruth’s warm sense of humor, her willingness to say whatever was on her mind, and her advocacy for women’s and minority rights remained an inspiration.
Nothing was more important to Ruth than her family. She was a beloved mother, and also an extraordinary grandmother. Her granddaughters see her as a remarkable role model for her accomplishments.
The family wishes to thank the caring staff at Village Shalom’s Health Center and her caregiver and friend of 13 years, Marcia Burns, for ensuring her care was nurturing, sensitive, and dignified
Ruth is survived by her three children Beth Byer (Paul), Bruce Margolin (Judy Beiriger) and Michael Margolin, and granddaughters Alyssa Montgomery (Jason), Emily Byer, and Michele Margolin, and her sister Mary Ann Hutkin.
A private graveside service will be held at United Hebrew Cemetery in St. Louis on October 13, 2023. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in Ruth’s memory to:
UMKC Women’s Center – Attention: Women’s Center Director
5120 Rockhill Road
Haag Hall 105
Kansas City, MO 64110
Village Shalom – Attention: Development
5500 West 123rd Street
Overland Park, KS 66209