Alumnae News & Highlights

Ruth Swetland Eppig cares deeply about the environment and living systems—the intersection of people and nature. In her youth she was always happiest outdoors, running through meadows, woods, and creeks. Now she is focused on preserving land, both natural and urban, through the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. She is also Advisory Board Chairman of the Mary Ann Swetland Center for Environmental Health at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, where environmental causes of disease and interventions are researched for the benefit of the community. 

She has served on several boards over time, including Red Oak Camps, the Nature Center at Shaker Lakes, the Cleveland Botanical Garden, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. She currently serves on the boards of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy and the Cleveland Institute of Art. 

After graduating from HB, she majored in biology at Smith College, which will not come as a surprise to her friends who knew her as “Nature Girl.” Throwing herself even deeper into the wild, after college she went to northern Ontario to work at a fishing-hunting camp and small lumber operation. There she built a log cabin accessible only by boat and lived in it for several years. 

When she returned to Cleveland after four years, she applied and was accepted into the University of Miami for marine biology, but took a detour. She was introduced to her future husband, Michael, an orthopedic spine surgeon. They settled in Cleveland to raise a family “which is the greatest work of my life,” says Ruth. They have four children, all of whom went to HB: the boys to pre-K and the girls through ninth grade. “Cleveland is a city that is worth working in and for,” she says. They now live next to Lake Erie, which “changes every day,” and “where the weather is personal.” 

Today, Ruth is president of the Sears-Swetland Family Foundation, an organization formed by her grandparents in 1948. She and her brother represent the third generation of leadership, and her children are trustees in the fourth generation. The foundation’s mission reflects the passions and experience of the current trustees: environmental health and urban sustainability. Bringing the family together in the foundation work and values has been a legacy-building effort and “the most gratifying life experience,” she says. 

Her advice to students is to remember how much influence they have on each other in addition to the influence of parents and teachers. This influence will last. “I was constantly inspired by my classmates she says. “Also, it is not necessary to be the brightest student in class, though that would be fun. The ability to work hard, stay determined and resilient is far more important in the long run.” 

  • Distinguished Alumnae Award