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Nazareth College Commencement speaker Ruth B. Turner addresses graduates May 13 and 14

Published April 06, 2022

A champion of children and families who supervises education in the state as a member of the Board of Regents will be Nazareth’s Commencement speaker on May 13 and 14, 2022. Ruth B. Turner '98, is an educator and a social worker committed to the principles of restorative practice, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). She earned her bachelor’s degree in social work from Nazareth and the College will give Turner the honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters during Commencement.

Turner’s commitment to the intersection of social work, social welfare, and education began very early in life rooted in her experience immigrating to the U.S. as a political refugee from Eritrea. It was the kindness and diligence of a social worker who aided her successful transition during one of the most challenging periods in her life. Through the support and advocacy of individuals like this social worker, she graduated from the Rochester City School District and attended Nazareth College as a first-generation student. Turner never forgot the power of support in mitigating the effects of adverse events in childhood and how that can help individuals reach their fullest potential. 

After earning a bachelor of science in social work degree, she went on to receive a master of social work from the University of Buffalo, and a master of science in education from SUNY Brockport. She is a licensed clinical social worker who has served the profession for more than 24 years.

For more than 13 years she served the Rochester City School District as a social worker, director, and executive director for student support service. Additionally, she served as the chief for student support and social emotional learning. Under her administrative leadership with the Rochester City School District (RCSD), she worked to support the most vulnerable students and was an advocate for all students and families. In her tenure, she led the revision of the student code of conduct. She also led the district in adopting restorative justice initiatives in terms of student discipline, and was a key leader of anti-racism work for the district.

Prior to joining RCSD she led the foster care and adoption unit for the Urban League of Rochester. She also spent several years as a trainer for the Center for the Development of Human Services where she focused on child welfare services.

She has more than 15 years of experience as a DEI and racial equity consultant and educator, partnering with many agencies, organizations, and educational institutions.

Turner was reappointed to the New York State Board of Regents in March 2022. 

Turner is married to William R. Turner Jr., Ph.D, assistant professor of African and African American Studies at SUNY Brockport. Together they have three children. 

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Nazareth College’s academic strengths cross an unusually broad spectrum of 60 majors, including education, health and human services, management, the fine arts, music, theater, math and science, foreign languages, and the liberal arts. The coeducational, religiously independent, classic campus in a charming suburb of Rochester, N.Y., challenges and supports 2,300 undergrads and 700 graduate students. Nazareth is recognized nationally for its Fulbright global student scholars and commitment to civic engagement. Rigorous programs, an uncommon arts and sciences core, experiential learning, career skills, and a global focus prepare graduates for not just one job, but for their life’s work.

Ruth B. Turner, a member of NYS Board of Regents, addresses Nazareth graduates at Commencement on May 13-14.