Ruth Caplin Tribute
The University, and the Arts world as a whole, lost a great talent, a true friend and tireless champion on August 5 with the passing of Ruth Sacks Caplin.
Mrs. Caplin’s lifelong love affair with the arts will be forever commemorated on Grounds at the state-of-the-art Ruth Caplin Theatre, a fitting tribute that provides both a vibrant learning laboratory for students as well as one of the area’s premiere theatrical venues.
After a lifetime spent helping others into the spotlight, Ruth Caplin found her own way there in 2006 (at the age of 85), when her screenplay for the film Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont made it to the big screen. The film, based on a novel by Elizabeth Taylor and produced by her son, noted Hollywood producer Lee Caplin. It starred Joan Plowright and Rupert Friend and won critical acclaim, including from the Washington Post, which called it “a tender, touching, deeply moving film.”
Mrs. Caplin kept her passion for the arts alive from a very young age. She balanced her role as mother to her and husband Mortimer M. Caplin’s five children by enjoying busy careers in painting and fashion design. In 1959, while Mortimer was a professor at the U.Va. Law School, Ruth Caplin played an important role in the lives of many children caught in the crossfire of the Civil Rights crisis in America. During the dark days of “Massive Resistance,” when the Virginia governor closed Charlottesville public schools rather than comply with integration laws, she co-created “The Ten Mothers,” which set up makeshift classrooms in the basements of private schools and reopened schools for all students. She would later go on to produce children’s theater and dance programs in Washington, D.C.
While her most high profile storytelling success may have come with her acclaimed film, Ruth Caplin was also the co-author of the remarkable love story that was her 72-year marriage to her husband. Our heartfelt condolences go out to him, to their four children, Lee, Michael, Jeremy and Cate; and to their eight grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Mrs. Caplin’s impact on artists and the arts at the University will continue for years to come through the Caplin Guest Artist Endowment Fund, where the family suggests gifts in her memory may be made.