Dr. Ruth Mercedes Smith was born in ±1933 as Ruth Mercedes Vosburgh. She earned a B.A. degree in political science from Beloit College (Beloit, Rock County, Wisconsin) in 1955.  That same year she married in Beloit her first husband Donald Fossedal (1932-1994). They had one child: Gregory Fossedal.  In de mid-1980s she earned a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in administrative leadership. After her marriage with Donald Fossedal ended she married Stanley Smith.
Ruth Smith became in 1988 president of the Mountain Empire Community College (Big Stone Gap, VA) and she became in 1991 president of Highland Community College (Freeport, IL). Ruth Smith was a senior fellow with Teacher Choice, a national association of teachers and educators who support choices, accountability, and reduced regulation in education. Ruth Smith was also in 2001 a director of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution (AdTI). She was already in 1996 involved in AdTI as can be seen in a letter  from her son Gregory Fossedal to Robert F. Chase, at that time president of the National Education Association (NEA). In January 2000, she decided to retire from Highland Community College at the end of 2001. In May 2001 she announced that she would "stay on at Highland for at least two more years".  Unfortunately that was not possible. Ruth Smith was killed in a car accident on the US 20 near Stockton, Ill. on September 5, 2001 at the age of 68.  
"Dr. Smith was co-chairman and a founder of AdTI's task force on regulation and education, which studies the economic burden and restriction of creativity in the classroom imposed by federal and state regulations." 
In an interview with Gregory Fossedal after his mother died, you can read:
"[Gregory Fossedal] remembered that, as a young married woman, his mom usually had a full-time job, was volunteering in the community and working on a degree. After her first marriage unraveled, she began work on her Ph.D. She helped women, and they helped her.
Gregory felt her life was complete when she met her second husband, Stanley Smith." 
On the AdTI's 990 form for 2001, her address is in Freeport, IL. That is also the city where the Highland Community College is. Irving Horowitz took over her position in the AdTI's board.
- Ruth Mercedes Fossedal, "Leadership and anxiety", 1984
- Ruth Mercedes Smith, "Community College Presidents: The Balancing Act", Leadership Abstracts, March 1996
- "Highland's loss is community's gain", January 2000
- Dr. Ruth Smith, "Accountability to standards is a good - but with it schools need a real cut in micro-management from Washington and the states", summer 2001?
- "Beloit Daily News",September 8, 2001
- Olga Gize-Carlile, "Gregory Fossedal Is His Mother's Scholarly Son", The Journal-Standard (Freeport, IL), September 14, 2001
- "Community College President Ruth Vosburgh Smith'55," Beloit College Magazine, Fall 2001
- "Mountain Empire Community College: General Information", September 4, 2003