Eleanor Ruffing McMahon Award for Conference Travel


The Eleanor Ruffing McMahon Awards for Conference Travel are made possible by an annual gift of $2,500 from The Honorable Colleen McMahon in memory of her grandmother, Eleanor Ruffing.  Judge McMahon, who currently is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, made this donation to enable undergraduate women who are honors students to attend conferences at which they will deliver papers based on their research.

Application Process

Undergraduate women in the Honors Program in the College of Arts and Sciences (ASC) who will deliver scholarly papers based on their research may apply throughout the year for funds to subsidize their travel to the conference at which they will present their work.  In general, the amount of the Eleanor Ruffing McMahon Awards will depend on conference and travel expenses, but a $500 maximum will govern most awards.

Applicants should include:

  • PDF iconthe application cover sheet [pdf]
  • a letter of recommendation from the project advisor
  • a two- or three-page summary of the paper to be delivered
  • a budget detailing expected conference and transportation costs
  • a copy of a letter or statement from the conference which confirms the applicant will deliver a paper

In addition, students applying for this grant must indicate a willingness to share a copy of the paper they deliver with the ASC Honors Office in 100 Denney Hall.

It is understood that applicants may not know they have been selected to deliver a paper until relatively near the conference, but students should make every effort to return all application materials to the ASC Honors Office as far in advance of the conference as possible. 

Please contact Lindsey Chamberlain, Director of the ASC Honors Program, with any questions.

Award Process

While preliminary award offers will be determined based on the budget provided in the application, the actual amount of the award will not exceed the student’s documented expenditures.  Students should understand that they will receive the award as reimbursement for costs they have already incurred.  Students receiving the award will be required to provide receipts to document their conference and transportation expenditures before the award will be disbursed. 

Awards will be made by the director of the ASC Honors Program in consultation with honors faculty advisors and members of the Arts and Sciences Honors Committee when needed.  Students also should be aware that the annual amount available for the Eleanor Ruffing McMahon Awards is $2,500 total (with individual awards generally limited to $500), and it is not possible for the ASC Honors Program to make awards in excess of the amount annually available.

Eleanor H. Ruffing

Eleanor H. Ruffing was born near Norwalk, Ohio, in 1887, the sixth and youngest child of Elizabeth and Jacob Ruffing, who migrated to America from Germany.  She obtained her first one-year Teachers Certificate from the School Examiner of Hudson County in 1902 and renewed her eligibility each year through 1911.  During 1905 and 1906, she attended Ohio Northern University for six terms, to obtain a formal teacher’s education.  She taught until she married George J. McMahon, a farmer from Bellevue, Ohio, in 1915.

Eleanor attended the International Business College of Fort Wayne, Indiana, in 1911, using bank loans secured in her own name, and her career as a businesswoman flourished during the years of her marriage.  Eleanor insisted that their farm be located near a business center, so they purchased 60 acres near Monroe, Ohio, at the intersection of well-travelled highways.

In the early 1920’s, as the business potential increased along U.S. route 209, she and her husband tore the kitchen and woodshed off the rear of their farm house and rolled it across the highway, where they opened one of the first roadside truck stops in Ohio.  Eleanor purchased the supplies for their business, hired the labor, kept the books, and filed the reports.  During the Great Depression, she was known as one of Monroeville’s principal employers.  And during this time, she raised and educated two children.

After her husband’s death, Eleanor purchased a second farm, and her ability to secure high prices for her crops was part of the local lore.  Just two weeks prior to her death, at the age of 89 in 1976, she was engaged in a dispute with the local grain-elevator operator over the price and moisture content of her stored grain.

Colleen McMahon rightly regards Eleanor Ruffing McMahon as one of the many unheralded pioneers of the women’s liberation movement.  At a time when education, career, and independence were rare for any woman, Grandmother Eleanor insisted on “having it all.”  As an inspiration to Colleen and others of her granddaughter’s generation, this award is meant to recognize her achievements in asserting her talents over her gender in a time when that was difficult to do.

The Honorable Colleen McMahon

Colleen McMahon, born in Columbus, Ohio, in 1951, was valedictorian of her Upper Arlington High School class and arrived at Ohio State in September, 1969, to begin her undergraduate years as an honors student.  A political science major who specialized in international relations, she graduated summa cum laude with a 4.0.  Colleen was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Sigma Alpha, and received a PBK scholarship to fund her undergraduate research.  Outside the classroom, Ms. McMahon was made a member of both Chimes and Mortar Board.

Colleen graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1976 and worked over 18 years at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, one of New York City’s and the nation’s preeminent law firms, where she specialized in high-stakes trial and appellate litigation.  In 1984, she became the firm’s first woman litigator appointed to partnership, and in 1995 Governor George Pataki appointed her to the bench of the New York State Supreme Court, where she presided over felony trials. She currently is a federal judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, which she has served since 1998.

Colleen has written extensively on a variety of legal topics, taught litigation strategy and employment law at seminars across the country, and has been a featured speaker/demonstrator at the annual conference on The Woman Advocate.  As Vice Chancellor for the Episcopal Diocese of New York, she devised procedures for responding to allegations of sexual misconduct by employees.  An active member of several bar associations and professional societies, she chaired committees on state court operations and women in the legal profession that issued well-received reports on court administration and the glass ceiling in the legal profession.  She also chaired The Jury Project, a special commission that made recommendations for improving the jury experience.

In her home community of Bronxville, New York, Colleen has been active in local governance and is a member of Christ Church, Bronxville.  She and her husband, Frank Sica, have three children, all of whom are ardent Buckeye fans.