Ruth Ann Gaines was born in Des Moines, Iowa in 1947. She was educated in the parochial school system. She received a BA degree in Drama/Speech in 1969 from Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa and a M.A. in Dramatic Art from the University of California in Santa Barbara in 1970. She has been teaching drama at East High School and Speech and Drama at Des Moines Area Community College since 1971. Ruth Ann has served on numerous boards and commissions throughout the years. She was appointed to the State Foster Care Review Board by Governor Tom Vilsack in 2000 and is currently serving on the Iowa Arts Council where she was appointed by Governor Chet Culver in 2008. She is also currently a Des Moines Human Rights Commissioner. She has been a Commissioner since 2004.
Ruth Ann has created many initiatives in the educational arena. She has taught diversity courses to teachers since 1979 at the Heartland Area Education Agency in Des Moines and most recently at Viterbo University Iowa Center in West Des Moines. She has also been recognized as a national diversity trainer for colleges and universities, businesses, corporations and churches.
Among the many initiatives she has created for the Des Moines Public Schools is Sisters for Success, a mentorship program for African American middle and high school girls. This program has been used as a model for other like programs in schools throughout the state.
She is also well known throughout the state for her acting and directing endeavors. Last fall she directed a 32 episode radio drama that was a part of the Iowa Initiative to prevent unwanted pregnancies, chaired by Christie Vilsack and Sally Pederson. This program aired in various communities throughout the state and will also be made available to schools. She has hosted her own radio and television shows, and is an accomplished public speaker.
Ruth Ann was a 1987 YWCA Woman of Achievement and the 1993 Rotary High School Teacher of the Year. She was the 1998 Iowa Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. During the last few years, she has also been inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame, the Iowa African American Hall of Fame and the Iowa Women’s Hall of Fame. In 2002 she was selected as a Central Iowa Woman of Influence. She was given the key to the city by Mayor Preston Daniels in 2003 and received an Iowa Character Counts Award in 2005. She served on the Loras College Board of Regents from 2001-2004 and was the recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008. Ruth Ann is also a graduate of Leadership Iowa in 1996 and a 2002 graduate of the Greater Des Moines Leadership Institute.
Ruth Ann is a single adoptive parent of a child with multiple disabilities. In 1984, she was one of 15 single persons to adopt in Iowa. She has worked for and served on numerous committees and boards to help the disabled. She served on Very Special Arts Iowa Board and has sponsored many special needs artists in the Des Moines community.
Ruth Ann has sought political office in the past. She ran for the Iowa Senate in 1994 and the Des Moines City Council in 2004. She is a lifelong Democrat.