U. of Oklahoma Regents Alumni Award Honors Ruth Knee

lizabeth Rasmussen and Beatrice HarperRuth Knee’s niece, Elizabeth Rasmussen (left) accepted the award on behalf of the family. Beatrice Harper (right) nominated Knee for the honor.

The University of Oklahoma posthumously honored Ruth Knee, who was an NASW Social Work Pioneer®, with its Regents Alumni Award for her dedication and service to the school.

The university says the Regents’ Alumni Award “is a testament to the important roles OU alumni and supporters play” at the school.

Bernice Harper, an NASW Social Work Pioneer® who is chair of the program’s planning committee, submitted Knee’s nomination letter and was invited to attend the awards ceremony. Knee’s niece, Elizabeth Rasmussen, accepted the award on behalf of the family.

Harper said it was important recognition be given to Knee’s many contributions to society.

“Ruth and I were professional colleagues and friends since the 1960s,” Harper said. “We worked together and in particular with Medicare legislation.”

Knee died in 2008 at age 88. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from OU with a degree in social work in 1941. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration.

Knee served two terms on the NASW Board of Directors as well numerous committees, councils and task forces and planning groups. She was the cofounder of the NASW Social Work Pioneersw program.

At the awards ceremony, it was noted that Knee began her government career as one of the first psychiatric social workers in the industrial mental health clinic organized by the U.S. Public Health Service. During 30 years of federal service, she developed social work roles within public health and military health care programs and advanced innovations and improvements in mental health services.

Throughout her career, Knee worked to make quality social work, mental health concepts and consumer rights integral components of health, mental health and long-term care programs, policies and standards.

She fostered social work at Walter Reed Army Hospital and returned to the Public Health Service to provide leadership to numerous interdisciplinary research and program development initiatives of the National Institute of Mental Health. Following her retirement in 1974, she was active in advocacy groups seeking nursing home reforms and in consulting.

A gift OU received from Knee’s estate last year will be used to bring together disciplines dedicated to improving the human condition and will provide resources for OU’s Anne and Henry Zarrow School of Social Work. With her husband, Junior Koenig Knee, she established a fund to sponsor OU’s Knee Center for Strong Families. In 1999, Knee received the OU College of Arts and Sciences’ Distinguished Alumni Award.