Ruth Unger

Areas of Achievement: 
Social Work, Mental Health, Children and Families

Honored by

Donor(s) name: Ruth Unger's Children and Grandchildren

Ruth Unger always wanted to work with people, but it was many years before she was afforded the opportunity. The first job she had was that of a model with a dress manufacturer in New York. It was on the subway on the way to this job that she met her future husband Harry, and they subsequently raised two daughters.

Ruth returned to the business world when the children were older, working as an art director for the Provincetown Art Gallery. During this time, she was awarded a Ford Foundation scholarship and decided to pursue a college degree. Prior to completing her studies, the family found it necessary to move to Florida, where she once again took a position with an art gallery. The climate in Florida was not what they had anticipated, so the Unger family made a decision to relocate to Tucson. This move afforded Ruth the opportunity to return to school to complete her bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona. She was pleased to be graduating the same year as her younger daughter.

After her degree, Ruth started her career with what was then called the Welfare Department as an eligibility worker. She received a grant to continue her studies and, in 1974, obtained her Master’s degree in Social Work. She became a licensed clinical social worker as well as supervisor with Child Protective Services. Ruth also traveled extensively. Many of her trips were focused on observing and learning about the provision of social services in other parts of the world.

When she retired at age 70, Ruth still wanted to work with people, so she became self-employed as a therapist for individuals and families. She became a board certified expert in traumatic stress, and gained the education and skills in the use of clinical guided imagery. Ruth was also called upon frequently to provide crisis intervention sessions for traumatized groups and individuals to minimize their potential of developing long term psychological trauma problems.

Throughout the years, Ruth has received numerous awards recognizing her accomplishments. These include a certificate of merit from the office of the governor of the state of Arizona; Social Worker of the Year by the National Association of Social Workers-Arizona division; and Department of Economic Security awards for service to families and prevention of child sexual abuse. In addition, Ruth received the Rudolf Dreikurs Community Interest award for her work as a mentor, trainer, and supervisor in the social services field. She also received awards from Roots and Wings, Parents United, Arizona Personnel and Guidance Association for her work in preventing child sexual abuse, and many other organizations for her dedication and service to children and families.

Ruth has worked tirelessly to assist others in achieving success in their lives. Those who know her have described her as “the consummate professional, a social worker’s social worker, and an advocate for those new to their profession”. She has provided opportunities in the field for others by her availability to share her knowledge and experience and her wish to see others succeed. Our family is extremely pleased to have the privilege of honoring Ruth’s generosity and service to others by placing her engraved name and story in the University of Arizona’s Women’s Plaza of Honor.