'Live Each Day to the Fullest'

'Live Each Day to the Fullest'

Service Award winner shares lessons learned from fighting cancer

By Mark Sullivan
Staff Writer

Ruth Johnson Chobit was lucky. A mammogram in 1992 detected a cancer in her breast early enough that the disease could be successfully treated without radical measures, and she has been healthy since.

But her brush with cancer led Chobit to take stock of her priorities in life.

Today, the assistant director of the Human Resources Service Center spends her spare time boosting the spirits of victims of cancer and their loved ones, and urging friends and co-workers to be screened for the disease.

Her energetic dedication to others has earned Chobit this year's Boston College Community Service Award, which will be given her by University President William P. Leahy, SJ, at a dinner on May 25.

Ruth Chobit
"Live each day to the fullest - that would be my motto," said Chobit, who began working at BC two days after she graduated from Brockton High School in 1963. "Do what you can for today, because you don't know what tomorrow may bring. Life's too short."

Chobit was 46 when a routine mammogram detected the cancer for which she was successfully treated seven years ago.

"The experience completely changed my life," she recalled. "I said, 'I've got to get the word out to people.' There are so many people who have died of things that could have been prevented."

She has urged co-workers to have mammograms or other screening tests devised for early detection of cancer. She co-founded a wellness group for cancer patients and their families on the BC campus that currently has 10 members, who meet every other week for mutual support and to hear presentations by nutritionists and other health professionals.

As an official of the Cape Cod Women's Cancer Collective, the Dennis resident helps raise funds for cancer research, finds doctors and arranges rides for patients, and solicits donations of books to hospitals.

She acknowledges she can be quite persistent when she gets hold of a cause. "I can be a real nag until I get what I want," Chobit said with a laugh. "My husband will say to me, 'Why do you get yourself into these things?'"

Her husband, Edward, worked for 23 years in the HVAC shop at Boston College until a stroke three years ago forced his retirement. She spends weekends with him at their home on the Cape, and during the week keeps an apartment in her hometown of Brockton, where she helps look after her ailing mother-in-law.

Never blessed with children of her own, Chobit is godmother to eight, and a doting aunt to "tons of nephews and nieces," she said.

On Tuesdays she reads to third-graders at the Garfield School in Brighton, where she proudly reports that four pupils in her class won prizes in a citywide bookmark-drawing contest.

A self-described "packrat," she frequents garage sales and discount stores for books and holiday pencils to bring to school. She saves the packets from her morning oatmeal for the trivia questions on the back, with which she quizzes her class, and has friends stockpile Boston Sunday Globes so she can bring 25 copies of the "Kids' Pages" to her pupils. To accompany the reading of a book about the seashore she has brought each child a shell collected on the Cape.

"I always wanted to be a teacher," Chobit said. "When I retire in seven or eight years, I would like to go teach, or even be a teacher's aide."

When that time comes, her office in More Hall could be transferred intact to Burns Library as an archive, so packed is it with photos and keepsakes from her years at Boston College, which began when she took a job in the treasurer's office. She also earned a degree in business from the College of Advancing Studies in 1980.

Chobit's many BC anecdotes range from the solemn - rushing to say a prayer in St. Mary's after hearing of President Kennedy's assassination - to the ridiculous, such as the day she photographed student streakers on the Dustbowl in 1974.

"Oh, the stories I could tell," Chobit said, with a laugh.


Return to May 11 menu

Return to Chronicle home page