Alumna and longtime friend of Saint Anselm College, Ruth M. Conley ’56 passed away on September 19, 2023, at the age of 101. Born on May 15, 1922, she was a lifelong resident of Manchester, N.H.
Conley spent her first years as a waitress at Belmont Lunch, but after meeting Ruth Bagley, who helped establish Saint Anselm College’s Nursing program, she began to train to be a registered nurse. She eventually enrolled in the newly formed nursing program at Saint Anselm College and graduated in 1956 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing.
During her time at Saint Anselm College, she met Austin L. Conley, a young Classics and English professor. After they married, both stayed connected to the College. He spent 36 years as a professor, with 26 as the chair of the Classics Department. She worked as a registered nurse with Elliot Hospital and as a clinical instructor in Saint Anselm College’s nursing program. Following their retirement, the Conleys continued to support Saint Anselm’s mission through many ways, including by establishing the Conley Scholarship for outstanding students.
“The English department has been shaped by Austin and Ruth’s generosity, participation, and deep love for all of us and our students,” wrote English Professor Meoghan Cronin. “The department will reflect the influence of the Conleys for many years, not just in the name of the Conley Lounge in Bradley House, but in our commitment to students and to each other, as modelled by the steadfast loyalty, patient hope, and the pure enjoyment of the arts that Ruth and Austin showed us for years and years.”
She was a regular at Sunday Mass in the Abbey Church, attended many on-campus exhibits and lectures, and could often be seen cheering in the crowd at football games.
“As much as the word is used, Ruth defined Anselmian to me. Her unsurpassed compassion, broad intellect, generous spirit, and quick wit commanded the attention of all who met her — in the most unassuming way possible,” shared Cory True ’09. “Conversation was so natural with Ruth. Whether the venue was an academic lecture, a football game halftime, or a black tie dinner, I always looked for an opportunity to check in with Ruth, and knew the rest of my day would be better for it.”
Recently Conley returned to the Hilltop to celebrate her 100th birthday with a reception at the Chapel Arts Center. In an interview with Fr. Jerome Day, O.S.B., ‘75 for “The Saint Anselm Crier,” she shared, “Saint Anselm is the best place in the world, and the Benedictines are the best people! I couldn’t have had a better life than the way it was.”
Ruth Conley was a member of the American Nursing Association, New Hampshire Nursing Association, National League for Nursing, New Hampshire Council of Catholic Nurses, and the Delta Epsilon Sigma Catholic Honor Society.
She was predeceased by her beloved husband, Austin L. Conley. Her funeral was held Tuesday, September 26, 2023 in Saint Anselm Abbey Church.