Ruth Elizabeth Burt, class of 1953


In this interview, Ruth Elizabeth Burt, Pembroke College class of 1953, discusses majoring in Psychology at Pembroke, conducting research for the Education Testing Service, and serving on Brown University’s Corporation.

Burt begins her interview by describing how she decided to attend Pembroke and how Professor Harold Schlosberg encouraged her to pursue the psychology concentration. She notes some of the research she did regarding assessments of talents and reminisces about meeting her husband in Dr. Smiley’s astronomy class.

Burt moves on to detail her involvement in the Pembroke Alumnae Association and then her path to realizing her dream job with the Education Testing Service (ETS) in Princeton, New Jersey. Here, she continues to define the research she did with John French related to the majors students choose and their happiness levels. She goes on to discuss her path to graduate school, subsequent promotions within ETS, and her work with experiential learning particularly for women.

After this, the majority of the interview focuses on Burt’s work on the Corporation in the capacities of Trustee, Fellow, and Secretary, and her work to increase women’s acceptance and involvement therein. Topics include the Louise Lamphere vs Brown University sex discrimination case, and the search for President Howard Swearer. Burt concludes by listing her professional accolades.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Recorded on January 1, 2013 in Princeton, NJ
Interviewed by Nancy L. Buc

Suggested Chicago style citation: Burt, Ruth Elizabeth. Interview. By Nancy L. Buc. Pembroke Center Oral History Project, Brown University. January 1, 2013.


Ruth Elizabeth Burt was born on July 2, 1931, a single child raised by her parents and maternal grandfather in Bennington, Vermont. She graduated from Pembroke College in Brown University in 1953 with her A.B. in psychology. In 1957, she married Lincoln Ekstrom, Brown University class of 1953, who was a chemist and environmental scientist. When Ekstrom accepted a job at RCA Laboratories in Princeton, New Jersey, Burt took the opportunity to pursue her dream of working for the Education Testing Service where she enjoyed a successful four-decade career conducting research on assessments of human talents and experiential learning. During this time, Burt also earned her master’s and PhD in educational psychology. She dedicated her work and her time on Brown University’s Corporation to advancing women, minorities, and people with disabilities, in education.