Photography by Rett Peek | Shot on location at The Hornibrook Mansion The Empress of Little Rock
She’s a champion for inclusion and enriching the lives of all Arkansans. When Ruth Shepherd moved to Little Rock in 1970, she embarked on a career in public education – teaching English at Hall High School and serving on the adjunct faculty at UA Little Rock. Additionally, Ruth’s service to Arkansas Repertory Theatre spans three decades and includes leadership of the Save the Rep campaign. But certainly, and equally impressive, is Ruth’s commitment to Just Communities of Arkansas. As executive director, Ruth fearlessly facilitated critical programming that encouraged acceptance and equality.
Her interest in advocacy dates back to college at Oklahoma State University. Ruth remembers, “Our nation first truly recognized systemic inequality, particularly surrounding race and gender. For years I didn’t know how I might do anything to promote fairness and equal access. Working at JCA was that opportunity.”
Ruth’s dedication and devotion during her tenure at JCA established a remarkable organization with proven mission fulfillment work in our community, but she insists the challenges continue. “Because of what I’ve learned about systemic racism and implicit bias, I know for sure that our work is not done. And I know for sure that every person can make a difference. So, I’m going to keep working. This diversity stuff is not rocket science; it’s harder.”
Currently the chair of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre Board of Directors, Ruth has served as a full-time volunteer staff member since the organization suspended productions in 2017. She reflects, “My time here has been a joy. I believe that good theatre expands our understanding of who we are personally and who we are in the community with others. Fortunately, many others share our passion for The Rep and appreciate what it provides to our community. Therefore, we moved quickly from saving The Rep to rebuilding The Rep. We need for everyone who values The Rep to continue to be ticket holders and donors. It will take all of us to support and grow this important community asset.”