Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 50
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
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Ruth L. Woodward

John B. Hughes

Carol W. Atkin

Beryl R. Collins

Mark Ritts

Ruth L. Woodward

Ruth L. Woodward

Ruth Lorraine Woodward, 87, of Princeton, died peacefully on December 7.

Born in Bayonne, N.J. to William Henry Errien and Isabel (Ackerman) Errien, she grew up in Kingston and completed secondary education at Princeton High School in 1937. She later earned a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University and worked as a research assistant in the History Department at Princeton University.

She was a lifelong member of Princeton United Methodist Church, where she met her husband, Dr. J. Guy Woodward, a physicist at the Sarnoff Research Center. They were married in 1945 and raised their family in Princeton.

Mrs. Woodward was active in the United Methodist Women, the Women’s College Club of Princeton, the Evening Circle, and a quilting club. She leaves behind many beautiful quilts that are prized by her family and friends, as well as several contributions to historical research: A Journey of Faith for One Hundred and Fifty Years: A History of the Princeton United Methodist Church (1997); Princetonians, 1784-1790: A Biographical Dictionary (with Wesley F. Craven, 1991); and Princetonians, 1784-1790: A Biographical Dictionary (with J. Jefferson Looney, 1991).

She was predeceased by her husband Guy, by their daughter Keitha Jane Woodward, and by her sister Lois Errien. She is survived by two daughters, Marcia Woodward of North Carolina and Lenore Brown of Ewing; two grandchildren; and a great-grandson.

A memorial service will be held this Saturday, December 19 at 1:30 p.m. at Princeton United Methodist Church, 7 Vandeventer Avenue. Friends are invited to greet the family at a reception following the service.

Arrangements are under the direction of The Mather-Hodge Funeral Home, 40 Vandeventer Avenue.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Princeton United Methodist Church Music Fund.

John B. Hughes

John Brassington (Jack) Hughes, 84, of Princeton, died December 5 at the University Medical Center at Princeton.

A scholar and professor, he retired from New York University in 1994 as Professor Emeritus of Spanish and Portuguese after more than two decades as department chairman there. While at NYU he also served as resident director of the university’s program in Madrid for eight years. He previously spent two years at the University of Minnesota, where he was department chairman and founded the Chicano Studies program in 1970-71. He also taught at Princeton University for 19 years after graduate school. A devoted teacher and advisor, he directed 37 doctoral dissertations.

Although Prof. Hughes concentrated on Latin American authors during the first part of his career, publishing two books on Argentine literature, he never strayed long from Spain and Spanish literature. In his later years, his work centered on the creation of the novel in 16th century Spain.

An aspect of academic life which he especially enjoyed was the opportunity it gave him and his family to live abroad, in Spain, Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico. His love of travel continued after his retirement when he organized trips to Brazil, Puerto Rico, and Spain for his Princeton Class of ’47.

Born in Denver, he moved at an early age with his family to Milwaukee, where he grew up the only child in a household of his parents and grandparents. He served in the Army in World War II and was a Woodrow Wilson Scholar at Princeton University, as interested in foreign affairs as he was devoted to fencing. As captain of the epée team, he led Princeton to an undefeated season during his senior year in 1949.

In his adult life, Prof. Hughes replaced the sword with the tennis racket, but the most lasting of his pastimes, other than his family, was poker. From his graduate student days at Princeton University until his death he was a founding member of a poker group that remained active for 60 years.

He was predeceased in 1997 by his first wife, Sally Barclay Hughes. He is survived by his wife Isabel Thomas Hughes; two daughters, Pamela and Alison; Mrs. Hughes’ children Sharon Haber and Steven Gordon Thomas; and three grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held on January 16 at 10 a.m. at the Princeton University Chapel.

Arrangements are by the Kimble Funeral Home, One Hamilton Avenue.

Carol W. Atkin

Carol W. Atkin, 74, of Princeton, died December 13 at home.

Born in New York City, Mrs. Atkin was a resident of Princeton for 50 years. She attended Wheaton College and was a graduate of Barnard College, where she earned a B.A. in Fine Arts.

She worked in the research laboratory at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston before becoming an art teacher of inner city children for the Trenton Board of Education in its Title 1 program. More recently she was the proprietor of Party Line Caterers and vice president of conferences for the National Mass Retailing Association.

A published poet, she also enjoyed tennis and world traveling.

She is survived by her husband, Dr. M. David Atkin; two sons, Andrew Atkin of Edina, Minn. and Douglas Atkin of New York City; a brother, Kenneth Walker of New York City; four grandchildren; and a special friend of 50 years, Virginia Burford.

The funeral service was December 14 at The Jewish Center in Princeton. Burial followed at Princeton Cemetery.

The period of mourning will be observed at the Atkin residence.

Memorial contributions may be offered to The National Parkinson Foundation or University Medical Center at Princeton (Hospice).

Funeral arrangements were by Orland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel, 1534 Pennington Road, Ewing Township.

Beryl R. Collins

Beryl Robichaud Collins, 90, of Hightstown, formerly of Princeton, died December 7 at Meadow Lakes in Hightstown. She had been treated for Parkinson’s disease for many years.

She gained national recognition when Business Week magazine, in a June 1976 issue, included her as one of the “Top Corporate Women” in the United States. She combined in a unique way the worlds of corporate management and environmental research and concern.

Born in Brooklyn, New York, she lived most of her early life in Wisconsin.

After graduating from Mount Holyoke College in 1940 with honors in Economics, she joined IBM as a member of its newly designed management training program for women. Its graduates, 25 women, were trained to assist customers in the installation of IBM equipment. After serving as a system service representative in Chicago for a year, she was promoted to the position of IBM Secretary of Education with responsibility for designing staff and customer educational programs. She then worked at Sperry Gyroscope as Contract Termination Systems Manager, responsible for developing the procedures needed to recover assets on contracts terminated at the end of World War II.

In 1946, she joined McGraw-Hill as its first systems consultant. In 1971, as senior vice president for corporate management information services, she was the first woman officer of the company, responsible for the planning and use of computers, systems and programming, and management information planning throughout the corporation. In 1979, she took early retirement from McGraw-Hill to devote more time to public policy issues.

Mrs. Collins had a deep interest in the natural environment. As a part-time student, she earned a masters degree in biological sciences from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in ecology from Rutgers University, where she did research in the Institute for Environmental Studies. She was the senior author of two books on New Jersey’s environmental conflicts — one on the state’s landscape diversity, the other on the Pinelands. She also authored two books on business data processing.

She received honorary degrees form Cedar Crest College and Mount Holyoke College, from which she also received the Alumnae Medal of Honor.

The first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Aetna Insurance Company and of G.D. Searle, she also served on the board of Fundamental Investors of the American Mutual Funds; the national and state boards of the Nature Conservancy; and the boards of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation, New Jersey Audubon Society, Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Rider College, and Mount Holyoke College.

Mrs. Collins and her husband, Arthur B. Collins, lived in Princeton for 25 years. After Mr. Collins died in 1998, Mrs. Collins moved to Meadow Lakes.

She is survived by four stepchildren, Patricia Kirchner and Barbara Collins of New Jersey, Kate Northrup of Massachusetts, and Robert Collins of New Hampshire; a cousin, Audrey Lexander of Stamford, Conn.; a niece, Margaret Robichaud of Wisconsin; and a nephew, Dennis Robichaud of Florida.

A family memorial service is planned for the spring in Wisconsin.

Memorial contributions may be made to either the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, 1359 Broadway, Suite 1509, New York, N.Y. 10018; or to a charity of the donor’s choice.

Condolences may be extended online by visiting

Mark Ritts

Mark Ritts, 63, of La Cañada Flintridge, Calif., formerly of Princeton, died December 7 at home. The cause of death was cancer.

A writer, producer, director, actor, and puppeteer, Mr. Ritts was best known for playing the incorrigible Lester the Rat on the innovative children’s science series Beakman’s World. He was an Emmy Award winning television host.

Born in West Chester, Pa., Mr. Ritts grew up in Princeton, graduating from Princeton High School in 1964. He graduated from Harvard with a B.A. in English literature and went on to obtain post-graduate credits at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Growing up, he was exposed to the entertainment world at a young age. His parents, Paul and Mary Ritts, were fixtures at WCAU-TV Channel 10 in Philadelphia, where they first found success with The Ritts Puppets, creating such memorable characters as Albert the Chipmunk, Sir Geoffrey the Giraffe, and Magnolia the Ostrich. Paul Ritts died in 1980, but Mrs. Ritts remained in Princeton until the mid-90s, when declining health and a desire to be closer to her son prompted her move to a retirement home in Pasadena, California.

Beakman’s World, an educational show that mixed science with zany antics, started in syndication on the Learning Channel in 1992. It was picked up by CBS in 1993 and ran through 1998. It won two Emmys, two Cable Aces for Best Children’s Series, and the Jim Henson/Unima-USA Award for puppetry. It is still seen in worldwide syndication today.

Another role brought to life by Mark Ritts in the 1990s was Kino, the boy-puppet co-host of Storytime, a PBS series for pre-schoolers. Kino, voiced and manipulated by Mr. Ritts, would read alongside such celebrity guest storytellers as Kirk Douglas, Angela Bassett, and Jason Alexander. Mr. Ritts was also a writer for the series, which ran for 82 episodes.

Mr. Ritts had a varied career in the creative arts that ranged from producing documentaries to co-authoring a parenting book to making industrial films for Fortune 500 companies. His background in puppetry led to employment with New York City based Aniforms, Inc., a production house specializing in real-time animation. There, he conceived, wrote, and directed videos, theatrical events, and multimedia presentations for a variety of media, industrial, and corporate clients. In 1998-99, he was the senior producer and co-writer of the Barney the Dinosaur special for PBS and the Fox Network. He co-wrote, produced and directed a one-hour primetime documentary for PBS on microbiology as part of the public television network’s series, Intimate Strangers: Unseen Life on Earth, that took him to locations around the world. Most recently, he wrote and directed episodes of Court TV’s North Mission Road, a documentary series on case files from the Los Angeles County Coroner.

He was the co-author, with Don Fleming, of Mom, I Hate You! Children’s Provocative Communication: What It Means and What To Do About It, published in 2003 by Three Rivers Press.

Mr. Ritts called himself a “semi-retired magician,” but it was his early love for magic that helped fuel his other lifelong passion, aviation. As a young boy, he performed magic show routines as a way to finance his pilot training. When it came time to apply to Harvard, he flew himself to Boston for his interviews. He was also an accomplished guitarist who often accompanied his wife, singer Teresa Parente, in performances.

In addition to Ms. Parente, he is survived by his three children, Dan, James, and Gabriella.

Condolences and comments to the family may be left at

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