Woodrow graduate and Dallas philanthropist Ruth Altshuler left her mark on our city

Ruth Altshuler and her second husband, Charles Sharp, after their $400,000 gift to SMU for a drama building in 1964 (Photo courtesy of the Dallas Morning News Archives).

Ruth Altshuler, a well-known Dallas philanthropist, former Swiss Avenue resident and 1940 Woodrow Wilson High School graduate, died Friday night. She was 93.

Altshuler fell and broke her hip in October, and died from complications following the injury.

“All she did for this city,” Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Saturday to the Dallas Morning News, “can never be fully measured or comprehended. One of the strongest women, one of the strongest people, in Dallas’ history.”

Altshuler met four presidents while raising millions of dollars for organizations such as the Salvation Army, Communities Foundations of Texas, Southwestern Medical Foundation, Dallas Children’s Advocacy Center, Dallas Summer Musicals and Laura Bush’s Foundation for America’s Libraries.

Altshuler grew up in a historic Swiss Avenue mansion, the daughter of Fidelity Union Life Insurance founder Carr Collins. She attended Woodrow Wilson High School and SMU before marrying Lt. Bleecker P. Seaman Jr. while in college. Seaman’s plane was shot down during World War II and Altshuler became a widow before the age of 21.

She married Charles Sharp in 1947, and had three children. In 1949, the Junior League introduced her to the world of philanthropy and exposed her to the great needs of people all around her.

Altshuler used her fundraising prowess to lead Thanksgiving food drives, raise money for the family of J.D. Tippett (the officer shot by Lee Harvey Oswald) and stock food banks. She would go on to be the first woman to serve on the boards of United Way and Salvation Army.

Her second husband died in 1984, and she married Kenneth Altshuler, a physician. She continued to be a major player in the Dallas philanthropy world, eventually helping to organize the city’s ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, at the age of 88.

On Thursday, a public memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. at Highland Park United Methodist Church followed by a public reception at the Umphrey Lee Center at SMU in the Martha Proctor Mack Ballroom.

Altshuler is survived by her husband, Dr. Kenneth Altshuler of Dallas; daughter Sally Harris and husband Fred Harris of Great Barrington, Mass.; son Charles Stanton Sharp Jr. of Dallas; daughter Susan Sharp and partner Jason Weisman of Dallas; six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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