By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
SELINSGROVE — For more than seven decades, Ruth Eleanor McCorkill has either been a student, employee or enthusiastic supporter of Susquehanna University.
The 93-year-old is a regular visitor to the campus and rarely misses a home football game. Wearing her ubiquitous maroon SU jacket, she spent a recent evening enjoying a musical performance at the Degenstein Center Theater.
“I go to as many events as I can,” the Northumberland resident said, raving about her alma mater and former workplace.
The 1943 graduate and former SU alumni director and sports publicist’s dedication to the university hasn’t gone unnoticed. She will be bestowed with an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during the upcoming May 11 commencement in the field house of the James W. Garrett Sports Complex.
“I received a phone call from a 1953 graduate and he told me ‘It’s about time’,” she said. “I am so thrilled. I thought it was only given to people who gave a lot of money.”
School officials describe McCorkill as an “influential presence on campus” and a key figure in the rejuvenation of the alma mater.
“Ruth Eleanor is a remarkable advocate for Susquehanna,” said Doug Seaberg, the assistant vice president for university relations and McCorkill’s seat mate at home football games at the Nicholas A. Lopardo Stadium where she has a reserved seat.
“She is so well connected to alumni, students and many in the local community and her love for this university is infectious. She is like a magnet, attracting friends to herself and to Susquehanna wherever she goes. She has become a good friend and I am so happy that she will be receiving this honor at commencement.”
McCorkill was a trailblazer for women in the 1940s when she was hired to serve as the university’s alumni director and sports publicist soon after graduating with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.
An only child raised by her father after the death of her mother when McCorkill was 14, she didn’t plan on being the school’s first women sports publicist and never gave much thought about working in a predominately male field even when she was barred from the press box at out-of-town games because of her gender.
“I didn’t know what I wanted to do before I took the job,” she said. “I wasn’t interested in nursing and at the time there was no money in teaching.”
McCorkill still recalls with delight working closely with Amos Alonzo Stagg, the “grand old man of football” who coached the SU football team with his son, Amos Alonzo Stagg Jr., from 1947 to 1952.
“I learned a lot from the old man. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but how you play the game,” she said. “It’s a good rule for life, too.”
After 10 years at Susquehanna, she accepted a similar position at Upsala College in New Jersey where her salary was nearly doubled. Other public relations jobs followed at the Salvation Army of New Jersey and Old First Presbyterian Church in Newark.
McCorkill retired in 1989 and settled back in Northumberland where she has remained an active volunteer.
In 2002, she established the William Garver and Mary Jan McCorkill Scholarship fund at SU for students in memory of her parents.
Whenever she reads about a local teen who is doing well academically, McCorkill said, she’ll call the Admissions Office to spur a recruitment.
McCorkill never married, but cherishes the friendships she’s forged over the years with many at SU, including SU President L. Jay Lemons and Lopardo.
“I know so many people and they’re all my friends,” she said.