For Ruth V. Watkins, students came first. During her eight-year tenure as the U’s 16th president and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, Watkins worked to expand access to the state’s flagship institution. She supported initiatives aimed at ensuring that every student has an excellent educational experience at the U. And she made degree completion a priority, recognizing that—as she often said—access without completion is a hollow promise.
The gaps in access and graduation rates for women and underrepresented students narrowed significantly under her leadership. Overall, the U’s completion rate reached a record 70 percent. But what may have impressed students most about President Watkins was this: Once she meets someone, she never forgets their name.