Ruby Puryear Hearn

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Ruby Puryear Hearn
Born (1940-04-13) April 13, 1940 (age 78)
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
Alma mater Skidmore College, Yale University
Occupation Biophysicist

Ruby Louise Puryear Hearn (born April 13, 1940) is an African-American biophysicist who has dedicated her career to health policy.

Early life[edit]

Ruby Louise Puryear was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina on April 13, 1940.[1] Her family later relocated to the Atlanta area.[2]

Ruby attended Skidmore College, majoring in biochemistry.[3] As a senior, she wrote to the editor of the college newspaper, criticizing the National Student Association for not supporting black students’ protest of Woolworth's Department Stores.[4] She was an excellent student, regularly appearing on the dean’s list and graduating with highest honors in 1960.[5] Ruby was one of twelve students in her class to pursue graduate school.[6]

Ruby married Robert Hearn in December 1960, and has two children.[2]


Hearn attended Yale University, earning a M.S. and Ph.D. in biophysics.[7] Her dissertation was titled “Thermodynamic Parameters In The RNase-S System.”[8] She was a Yale Corporation Fellow from 1992-1998.[7]

Throughout the 1970s, Hearn worked on development programs to improve the health of at-risk children. In 1980 she began working at Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest healthcare philanthropy in the United States.[7]

Hearn spent the majority of her career at the foundation, where her program planning efforts focused on “maternal, infant, and child health; AIDS; substance abuse; and minority medical education.”[7] From 1983-2001, Hearn served as Senior Vice President of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Since retiring, she continues to act as Senior Vice President Emerita.

Hearn has been active on several boards and committees throughout her lifetime. In 1995, she was on the Executive Committee for the Board of Directors of the Special Olympics World Summer Games. Hearn has served on the Science Board of the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the governing Council of the Institute of Medicine. She also served on the board on Children, Youth, and Families for the National Academy of Medicine.[9] The New York Academy of Medicine awarded Hearn the Academy Medal for Exceptional Service to the Academy in 2015, after providing ten years of leadership on the Board of Trustees and advocating for program development.[10]


  1. ^ Kovacs Henderson, Andrea. "American Men & Women of Science: A Biographical Directory of Today's Leaders in Physical, Biological, and Related Sciences". Gale Virtual Reference Library. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Miss Ruby Puryear to Marry Dec. 30". New York Times. 1 October 1961. 
  3. ^ "Miss Ruby Puryear Honor Graduate at Skidmore College". Memphis World. 11 June 1960. 
  4. ^ Puryear, Ruby (17 March 1960). "Senior Questions Executive Action". Skidmore News. 
  5. ^ "Dean Names Students for 1959 Honors List". Skidmore News. 24 September 1959. Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  6. ^ "12 Seniors Plan Further Study In Graduate School". Skidmore News. 19 May 1960. 
  7. ^ a b c d "Ruby Puryear Hearn". African American History Program. 
  8. ^ Puryear Hearn, Ruby (1969). "Thermodynamic Parameters In The RNase-S System". ProQuest Dissertations and Theses. Yale University. 
  9. ^ "Academy Honors Three During African American History Month". National Academy of Engineering. 1 February 1998. 
  10. ^ "Academy Announces Its 2015 Awards Honoring Leaders in Health Policy, Public Health, Clinical Practice, and Research". New York Academy of Medicine. 27 October 2015.