Black Educator Hall Of Fame Member, Ruth Wright Hayre

E’ry day this month, the Center for Black Educator Development, in partnership with, will highlight a Black Educator Hall of Famer.

But, don’t forget, e’ry month is Black History Month. February is just the Blackest.

Today, our featured Black Educator is Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre.

Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre, a legendary Philadelphia educator, was born in Atlanta, GA, on October 26, 1910. She is the granddaughter of the formerly enslaved Richard Wright, who opened the first African American bank in Philadelphia and founded Georgia State College.

Dr. Hayre came from a family that valued education, and she excelled. She graduated from West Philadelphia High School at 15. Her successes continued at the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned her bachelor’s degree at 18 and her master’s degree at 20. Despite her brilliance as a student and soon-to-be educator, she encountered racism intended to hold her back. But it did not.

Because Philadelphia Public Schools did not hire Black secondary school teachers, Dr. Hayre left the city for Arkansas, where she would begin her teaching career. In 1930, she began at Arkansas State College for Negroes, a.k.a. Arkansas Agricultural and Mechanical College, where she met her husband, Talmadge Hayre, who was also an instructor. The two were married in 1937. Dr. Hayre also served as briefly as the principal of Arkansas State College.

Dr. Hayre left Arkansas and returned to Philadelphia, where she finally got her opportunity. In 1946, Dr. Hayre became the first Black senior high school teacher in Philadelphia history. Furthering her education, Hayre earned her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania in 1949. Dr. Hayre rose through the ranks to eventually lead schools and lead the entire district. She would become the first Black vice-principal, principal, and superintendent of schools in Philadelphia’s history.

After serving as superintendent, Dr. Hayre was appointed to the Philadelphia School Board in 1985, where she’d later become president.

Dr. Hayre was an impactful and innovative educator. Throughout her life, she focused on removing the systemic hurdles that blocked young blacks from getting a good education. As a teacher, she stood against white teachers who thought Black students had a low capacity to learn, failing to hold them to the same rigorous standards as white students. As principal, Dr. Hayre established WINGS (Work Inspired Now Gains Strength), a program that encouraged students to discover their talents through college preparatory classes and diverse cultural experiences.

Dr. Hayre served not only as an educator but also as a philanthropist. She started and personally financed the Tell Them We Are Rising Fund at Temple University, which “adopted” 119 middle school students from North Philadelphia and guaranteed their post-secondary school tuition. It was one of the first programs of its kind, inspiring other such programs around the country.

On the enduring spirit of her grandfather and the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood amongst Black people, Dr. Hayre shared near the end of her life, “For by whatever name it is known, and in whatever century it is practiced, Black people here have helped each other first, last, and always.”

Ruth Wright Hayre; a member of the Black Educator Hall of Fame.

For more information on Dr. Ruth Wright Hayre, visit the following site.


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