The Longest Serving Morganite: Ruthe Sheffey

Blanca Assie, Staff Writer

Described by many as an outstanding literary scholar, Ruthe Sheffey is by far the longest-serving faculty member in the history of Morgan State University, who is still leaving her mark on the school.

In honor of the Morgan 150 anniversary last year, Sheffey was chosen by the sesquicentennial committee to be the poet laureate. She wrote a trilogy of three sonnets, which highlighted Morgan’s three Ps—purpose, progress and promise.

According to Sheffey, she enjoyed writing the piece and insisted on the last part of the poem, Promise, because it is addressed to all the students of Morgan, who represent the future of Morgan.

Her poem was printed in the December’s graduation booklet, and by the alumni group for Martin Luther King Jr. for their breakfast celebration in January.

Sheffey is, not only, still an active member of the Morgan family, but also active outside of Morgan. She continues to work with her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, and does some volunteer work with her church, the Heritage United Church of Christ.

Recognized for her tremendous work in the English department, where she spent 61 years being a professor and the chair, the lecture hall in the School of Global Journalism and Communication was named after her.

Sheffey obtained her bachelor’s degree at Morgan in 1947, her master at Howard University and Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.

Sheffey was particularly interested in the African American literature, African studies and women’s literature. She gave life to those interests by founding the Zora Neal Hurston Society and the scholarly journal Zora Neal Hurston Forum, which was published during the mid-1980s.

According to Sheffey, a large number of the society’s members are scholars coming from HBCUs and she picked Zora for her society because of “her special talent.”

“Zora was a [remarkable] woman writing during the Harlem renaissance period,” said Sheffey. “Zora’s excellence has earned her the right to be remembered, commemorated and celebrated.”

In addition to this society, Sheffey has made other contributions to Morgan, but the most important one is to see her former students acknowledge and thank her for the positive influence she had on their careers.

“The most rewarding thing is to see that you have encouraged young people to move on with their careers and to a successful life, that’s a very rewarding feeling,” said Sheffey.

As a professor, Sheffey taught Shakespeare, hence she was strict regarding the writing skills of her students. But she was also known for her love for innovative teaching and her complete dedication to her subjects and her students.

“Sheffey loved what she did and loved teaching. She was one of the people who helped Morgan moving forward. She was all about excellency, and when she talked about Shakespeare, you could see her face lighten up,” said Elizabeth Gross-Morant, a former colleague of Sheffey.

Now, when she looks back, she is overwhelmed with joy for everything she has accomplished and all the honors she has received.

Sheffey currently donates to the Morgan foundation for tuition so that the “great talented students” of Morgan won’t have to drop out.

She urges graduate students to follow her lead and help other graduates to go out and make their mark on the world.

“When you leave Morgan, don’t forget about it, keep coming back, keep giving back.”