Ruth M. Conard, former Towson University professor who taught theory to physical education majors, dies

Ruth M. Conard, a retired professor at Towson University who taught kinesiology and other classes to physical education majors, died Aug. 20 in her sleep at her Mercy Ridge retirement community home.

The former Timonium resident was 95.

“Ruth was a sweetheart and a dedicated professional,” said Carl Runk of Parkton, who coached lacrosse and football at Towson University for more than 30 years.

“She enjoyed teaching, and if you were fortunate enough to be in her class you came away as a learned person,” he said. “The kids loved her and her death is a huge loss.”

“Ruth was spunky, energetic, enthusiastic, and everyone loved her,” said Patricia S. Saunders of Wilmington, Del., one of Dr. Conard’s former students.

Ruth Marie Conard was born and raised in Shepherdstown, W.Va., the daughter of farmers Elbert and Edith Conard.

After graduating from Shepherdstown public schools, she obtained a bachelor’s degree in 1944 from Marion College, now Roanoke College, in Salem, Va., and a second bachelor’s degree from what is now Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.

She later received a master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and her Ph.D from Temple University in Philadelphia.

Dr. Conard began her teaching career in 1944 at Sparrows Point High School. The next year she returned to Shepherd College and taught there for 11 years.

In 1956 she joined the faculty of then-Glassboro State College, now Rowan University, in Glassboro, N.J. While there she became a friend and advocate of Ms. Saunders, a member of the class of 1963 who was born with cerebral palsy.

Ms. Saunders said college officials “would let me graduate but would not give me a teaching certificate because of my cerebral palsy. The college said I was unfit to be around normal children because they would be exposed to me. Special education kids didn’t matter.”

“Ruth and another professor stood up for me and said that I needed my teaching certificate so I could teach,” she said.

“She was everyone’s champion, and especially mine,” said Ms. Saunders, who received her certificate and began a career that spanned four decades as a special education teacher in New Jersey. She retired in 2000 from Winslow Township public schools, where she had been a reading specialist for 20 years.

“Ruth gave me my career. I would not have had a teaching career without her,” she said. “She made a difference in my life and gave me my life as an adult.”

In an ironic turn, she joined the faculty of Glassboro State.

“I taught there from 1976 to 1986,” Ms. Saunders said. “I ended up teaching at the college that didn’t want to give me my teaching certificate.”

Dr. Conard joined the faculty of then-Towson State College in the 1960s, where her areas of expertise were kinesiology, the study of human movement, and biokinetics, the science of movement of tissue within organisms.

She was a pioneer in the use of cinematographic analysis of human motion. Dr. Conard taught theory classes in the teacher preparation program for physical education majors, and in the occupational therapy program and the pre-physical therapy program. She also taught a variety of sports skills.

Mr. Runk recalled that when Dr. Conard gave him a lesson regarding the velocity of a lacrosse ball that had been hit.

“Ruth loved research. I went to her about how a lacrosse ball achieves its velocity, and she taught me so much about propelling an object,” he said. “I went to a lacrosse convention and explained how that happens. She made look like a million dollars, and all I the way home the only thing I could think of was how much I had to thank Ruth for.”

“What a beautiful person she was,” he said.

Dr. Conard served as chairman of the school’s department of kinesiology, had also been a member of numerous university committees.

She retired in 1983 from the school, which by then was known as Towson State University. At the time of her retirement, the university presented her an award declaring her a “scholar, humanitarian, enthusiastic teacher and a total educator.”

“She was known as an excellent teacher who demanded a high standard of hard work from her students, and students always said she was tough but fair,” said her niece, Susan Siskind of West Chester, Pa.

In her retirement, she became an active volunteer at Oregon Ridge Nature Center where she was a trail guide and served as a member of its board. She also participated in the Maryland Senior Olympics for more than 20 years, and had qualified to participate in the National Senior Olympics.

She was an inveterate traveler and had visited Europe, Scandinavia, Hong Kong, China, Ecuador, Peru, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands. Other hobbies included birdwatching, photography and attending the theater and classical music concerts.

A longtime Timonium resident, she had lived at Mercy Ridge since 2001.

Ms. Saunders’ bond with her teacher and friend remained strong through the years. “I called her every day from 1983 until a week before her death, when I was away in England,” she said.

Dr. Conard was a member of Ascension Lutheran Church, 7601 York Road, Towson, where a memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. Sept. 15.

In addition to her niece, Dr. Conard is survived by two nephews, Jan Kenneth Hiett of Hagerstown and Ralph Richard Conard of Wayland, Mass.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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