Dr. Ruth Shaffer


Dr. Ruth Shaffer of Glen Cove died on June 25, 2015. Dr. Shaffer received her B.A. at Brooklyn College, her master’s at Hofstra University and her doctorate at Columbia University. Beloved wife of 49 years to Michael. Mother of Sharon Sprung (William Astwood) and Stefan (Amy). Sister of Ellen Silverman (Carl Tunick). Grandmother of Jesse, Sara and Julia. Service held at the Funeral Home of Dodge-Thomas on Sunday, June 28, www.dodgethomas.com. Interment Locust Valley Cemetery. Donations may be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center/giving.mskcc.org or to Melillo Center Glen Cove.

Ruth was a true lover of the stage. The theater was a major passion in her life until the end. While attending Brooklyn College she spent her late afternoons and evenings taking theater classes at the New School. One summer she applied her new skills at the Weston Playhouse in Vermont where she had roles in the Little Foxes and Member of the Wedding. She even made Equity.

However, graduation and marriage to her first husband, Jack Sprung, ended thoughts of a theater career, but started what would become a lifetime of service helping others. Her first job was managing a program at Brooklyn College for Israeli soldiers who had been injured in the war for Israel’s independence and who had been brought to this country to attend college.

The following year, the new family moved to Glen Cove, now three in number with the birth of her daughter, Sharon. Ruth quickly became involved in the community as an active member of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. Through the league, Ruth made many friends with women in the community, friendships that would last a lifetime. She also helped to organize and then host the first planning meeting for what would become the summer Morgan Park Concert Series, which is still going strong today.

Unfortunately, most of her civic activities were cut short by the death of her husband and the birth of her second child, Stefan. Ruth then began the next phase of her long career of helping others, beginning as a substitute teacher in various schools around the county and eventually in her “new” home town. While subbing, she was concerned over the number of students whose needs were not being served by the schools. In Glen Cove, she proposed and then ran a program not unlike today’s alternative schools for at risk students. She also returned to college where she earned a master’s degree in counselor education at Hofstra University.

In 1964, she joined the guidance staff in Glen Cove High School where she would eventually become  department director and eventually the district administrator of counseling services. She developed numerous programs that have become common place today. One she was particularly proud of was a special college night for top students. Glen Cove had always been sidestepped by all the top colleges as they made their recruiting circuits around Long Island. As a result, few students, even those at the top of their class, failed to attract the interest of top colleges. In conjunction with Harrison House, now the “mansion,” Ruth began a special college night program, inviting a handful of select colleges to meet with top students and their parents. The impact was immediate. For the first time in years, the top students were being admitted to one or more of the colleges that had been invited to the special evening. The program grew and after a few years colleges were vying for the opportunity to be invited to the special evenings and Glen Cove quickly got back on the recruiting schedules of all sorts of colleges that previously avoided the school and students.

Ruth’s educational pursuits did not stop with her master’s degree. In 1965, she was selected to attend a competitive General Electric Foundation program for guidance counselors in the northeast at Boston University. It was at this program where she met Michael Shaffer, who, in 1966, became her husband for the next 49 years. The next step was Teachers College, Columbia University where she earned her doctorate in family counseling. One of her classmates in the program who got her degree at the same time was another Ruth, Dr. Ruth Westheimer, who would go on to radio and TV fame.

With her new degree, she received an opportunity to work part-time for several years at the Widows’ Consultation Center in New York City, a bereavement center funded by a grant from a major life insurance company. When the funding dried up and the center was forced to close, Ruth began delivering bereavement workshops for teachers and counselors as part of a BOCES sponsored in-service program offering. During this time, Ruth began to build a small private therapy practice focusing primarily on bereavement issues for both widows and widowers. Ruth was also very active in the formation of the InterAgency Council of Glen Cove, an association of social services agencies, and one of its sister agencies, Counseling, Alcohol and Substance Abuse (CASA).

As much as Ruth enjoyed working with students, there were challenges presented by her new focus on adult mental health issues, primarily those centered around bereavement and divorce issues, so Ruth retired from the Glen Cove Schools in order to concentrate on expanding her skills, initially as an intern at the Angelo J Melillo Center for Mental Health in Glen Cove. Ruth later served on their board of directors for many years. Following retirement, she also worked as a consultant for the Roslyn Schools and also as an adjunct professor of education at CW Post College, where she supervised student teachers. After a few years, Ruth restricted herself to just her private practice, a practice that she maintained on a part-time basis until June 25, 2015.

Leave a Reply