RUTH SHULER DIETER Student Staff Trustee

Pine Mountain Settlement School
Series 19: STUDENTS
Series 09: BIOGRAPHY – Students, Staff
Ruth Shuler Dieter (1921-2019)

pm_harm_118 ; RUTH SHULER DIETER Student Staff Trustee

Ruth Shuler, student at PMSS, as Pack Horse Librarian, sharing a book with community children. c. 1941. [pm_harm_118.JPG]

RUTH SHULER DIETER Student Staff Trustee

Ruth Shuler Dieter:
Student 1937-1940
Bookkeeper 1942-1943
Country Dance Teacher 1942-1943
Pack Horse Librarian 1940-1941

Initiator of Alumni Relations Board 1970s
Member, PMSS Board of Trustees 1970s-1990s
Member, Committee Member, Vice President, Association of Alumni & Friends 1980s
Chairperson, Advisory Council 1980s
Association of Alumni & Friends Representative to the Board of Trustees 1970s-1990s
Honorary Trustee 2008-current

TAGS: Ruth Shuler Dieter, Great depression, Grace Nettleton Home, boarding school, Abilene Public Library, Pack Horse Library Project, Works Project Administration, Franklin D. Roosevelt, cooperative store, doctors, nurses, secretaries, baseball, swimming, folk dancing, octet, operetta, bookkeepers, Berea College, medical receptionists, John Palmer Dieter, alumnae, Kentucky Colonel

The experiences of Ruth Shuler Dieter in her early years not only taught her to deal with adversity and to appreciate the good things life had to offer but also made her keenly aware of the needs of others. Born 1921, she was old enough to remember the hardships of the Great Depression. It was then, in the 1930s, that her father deserted the family and she was placed in the Grace Nettleton Home in Harrogate, Tennessee, an orphanage for homeless mountain girls. Fortunately, she had an aunt who, recognizing her abilities, provided the funding that Ruth needed to attend Pine Mountain Settlement School (PMSS) in Pine Mountain, Kentucky, a boarding school that offered more progressive educational programming.

Ruth Shuler Dieter: PMSS Student

The Pine Mountain Settlement School, which she attended from 1937 to 1940, became in Shuler’s words, “her real home.” An article in the Abilene Public Library series, “Abilene Heroes,” noted that “There she learned much about giving of herself, about leadership, about hard work, and about human nature….” Each PMSS student was expected to work, such as cleaning the director’s house, as well as attending classes. She first learned accounting at the school, a skill that she used throughout her career.

While a 16-year-old student at PMSS, Ruth worked three days a week as a “pack horse librarian.” The Pack Horse Library Project was a Works Project Administration (WPA) program established by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to provide reading material for underprivileged Appalachian children. As a librarian, Ruth would ride a horse to houses scattered about the rocky, mountainous territory of eastern Kentucky, distributing books that were provided by the state library in Harlan, KY. She would often stay awhile at the homes to read to the children and help and encourage them learn to read.

In her second year at Pine Mountain, Ruth joined a cooperative store program, in which students experienced hands-on training in investing, purchasing, selling, accounting and profits, as well as the nutritional value of foods that were sold in the store.

RUTH SHULER DIETER Student Staff Trustee

Ruth Shuler attending a sick community woman as part of her Community Work assignment, late 1930’s. [shul_010.jpg]

Ruth’s third year involved accompanying the School’s doctor and nurse, again on horseback, as they visited patients in the community. Acting as their secretary, she kept careful notes at each location for the patients’ files.

Besides her studies and work assignments, Ruth managed to fit in extra-curricular activities, such as editing the school paper, playing baseball, swimming, folk dancing, and singing in the women’s octet. Starring in the role of “Little Buttercup” in the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta HMS Pinafore, she sang several solos.

Ruth Shuler Dieter: PMSS Bookkeeper and Dance Teacher

After graduation from Pine Mountain, she attended Strayer Business College in Washington, D.C. Then Ruth returned to campus for two additional years, working as a bookkeeper and teaching country dancing at the school. According to the Abilene article, “So much was she appreciated that the institution underwrote her attendance at Strayer Business College, in Washington DC, for further development of her secretarial skills.”

Ruth Shuler Dieter: After PMSS

She was in her early twenties when she decided to leave Pine Mountain Settlement School for further studies in accounting at Berea (KY) College. The “Abilene Heroes” article quotes Ruth as saying, “I felt very prepared for life when I left Pine Mountain Settlement School. It always seemed like home to me.” Her secretarial skills must have been well-known. Dr. Donald D. Dieter, Director of Admissions, promptly hired her to work in his own office, a position she held during all of her 3 1/2 years at Berea.

After Ruth graduated from Berea College, Dr. Dieter financed her relocation to his home state of Kansas where she began her new position as a medical receptionist for his brother-in-law. Two years later, in 1950, she married Dr. Dieter’s brother, attorney and judge John Palmer Dieter (1915 – 1999), all the while continuing work as a secretary for several different employers.

Ruth Dieter Shuler: PMSS Alumna

Pine Mountain eventually benefited as well from its former student and worker. On a return visit to the School in 1984, Ruth noticed a deterioration in the School’s operations. “She used her considerable influence as an alumna, contacted other former students, and together they re-established Pine Mountain into a successful enterprise. For her efforts, she received the distinguished ‘Kentucky Colonel’ certificate, from the state government, in two separate years.”

Ruth Dieter Shuler: In Abilene, KS

Ruth has spent many years in Abilene, Kansas, supporting “numerous [cultural and educational] causes in Abilene, helping to build its current reputation as an inviting tourist location and a great place to live….The Abilene community surely benefited from the presence of this former Kentucky schoolgirl.” Recently, in her 94th year, the city of Abilene recognized Ruth with their Distinguished Citizen Award for 2015. 

True to the original training she received at Pine Mountain Settlement School, Ruth reacted to praise for all the good work she has done by stating, “That’s what life is, it seems to me…to feel like you’ve given something to someone else.”

Ruth Shuler Dieter: Donations to PMSS Collections

During her time at Pine Mountain, Ruth collected photographs taken by others of the campus, people, and activities. They are stored in the PH: Ruth Shuler Dieter Photograph Album which Ruth donated to the Pine Mountain Settlement School’s archives.

Ruth has also donated to PMSS archives her Appreciation Album, assembled in 1984 by the Pine Mountain Association of Alumni and Friends. This collection of letters and cards describes memories and expresses thanks, appreciation, and congratulations from Ruth’s friends, family and associates for her many years of active participation in the Alumni Association and as the Alumni Association’s representative to the PMSS Board of Directors, of which she was also a member. The album is stored in two parts on this site as Album I and Album II.

At 94 years old [in 2016], Ruth Shuler Dieter lives in Abilene, Kansas. She is the sister of Ed Shuler of Greensboro, NC, and Bessie Shuler Finch of Fulton, TN.


“Ruth passed peacefully at the Village Manor in Abilene on April 14, 2019. Several nieces and nephews, and a host of genuine friends survive Ruth. She treasured each one. Her three sisters and one brother preceded her in death.” [Memorial on website for Danner Funeral Home, Abilene, Kansas.]


Alt. Title

Ruth Shuler Dieter

Ruth Shuler ; Mary Ruth Shuler Dieter ; “Ruthie” Dieter ;




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY

Alt. Creator

Ann Angel Eberhardt ; Helen Hayes Wykle ;

Subject Keyword

Ruth Shuler ; Mary Ruth Shuler Dieter ; Pine Mountain Settlement School ; Great depression ; Grace Nettleton Home ; boarding school ; Abilene Public Library ; Pack Horse Library Project ; Works Project Administration ; Franklin D. Roosevelt ; state library ; cooperative store ; doctors ; nurses ; secretaries ; school papers ; baseball ; swimming ; folk dancing ; octet ; HMS Pinafore ; operetta ; Gilbert & Sullivan ; bookkeepers ; Strayer Business College ; Berea College ; Dr. Don Dieter ; medical receptionists ; John Palmer Dieter ; alumnae ; Kentucky Colonel ; Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan, KY ; Harrogate, TN ; Washington, DC ; Berea, KY ; Abilene, KS ; Pine Mountain Association of Alumni & Friends ; PMSS Advisory Council ; PMSS Board of Trustees ;

Subject LCSH

Dieter, Mary Ruth Shuler, — 1921-2019.
Pine Mountain Settlement School (Pine Mountain, Ky.) — History.
Rural schools — Kentucky — History.
Women — Southern States — History.
Rural schools — Appalachian Region, Southern.
Schools — Appalachian Region.
Folk dancing — Appalachian Region.




Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY




Text ; image ;


Original and copies of documents and correspondence in the file folders in filing cabinet ; photograph album(s) ;


Series 05: Administration – Board of Trustees ; Series 09: Staff/Personnel ; Series 19: Students ; Series 20: Alumni & Alumni Relations ;




Is related to: Pine Mountain Settlement School Collections, Series 05: Administration – Board of Trustees, Series 09: Staff/Personnel, and Series 19: Students, Series 20: Alumni & Alumni Relations.

Coverage Temporal

1922 – 2016

Coverage Spatial

Pine Mountain, KY ; Harlan, KY ; Harrogate, TN ; Washington, DC ; Berea, KY ; Abilene, KS ;


Any display, publication, or public use must credit the Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. Copyright retained by the creators of certain items in the collection, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.




Core documents, correspondence, writings, and administrative papers created by or addressed to Mary Ruth Shuler Dieter ; clippings, photographs, publications by or about Mary Ruth Shuler Dieter ;




“[Identification of Item],” [Collection Name] [Series Number, if applicable]. Pine Mountain Settlement School Institutional Papers. Pine Mountain Settlement School, Pine Mountain, KY. [Date of Access.]

Processed By

Helen Hayes Wykle ; Ann Angel Eberhardt ;

Last Updated

2013-11-01 aae ; 2013-11-14 aae ; 2016-06-14 aae ; 2016-11-25 hhw ;
2020-02-14 aae ; 2022-09-13 aae ;



Abilene Public Library. “History, Heroes, Hospitality. Abilene Hero: Mary Ruth Shuler Dieter.” (accessed 2013-11-01). Internet resource.

“Ruth Dieter” Memorial. Danner Funeral Home (Abilene, Kansas) website. ; accessed 09-13-2022. Internet resource.

Eisenhower Foundation. “World War II Honor Roll. Honoree: Dieter, John P.” (accessed 2013-11-01). Internet resource.

“Find A Grave Index,” database, FamilySearch ( : 13 December 2015), John Palmer Dieter, 1999; Burial, Abilene, Dickinson, Kansas, United States of America, Abilene Cemetery; citing record ID 35785153, Find a Grave, Internet resource.


See Also:

 ALUMNI RELATIONS 1981 Newsletter
ALUMNI RELATIONS 1984 Newsletter