(WASHINGTON)– PEN America, the free expression and literary advocacy organization, today announced the appointment of Kate Ruane as the inaugural Sy Syms Director, U.S. Free Expression programs. Ruane joins PEN America from Wikimedia, where she has been lead public policy specialist for the United States. Previously, she served as national senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, focused on free speech protections. Ruane, an expert on the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause, will lead PEN America’s advocacy, campaigning, and litigation on First Amendment and related free expression issues, developing new legal and advocacy strategies to address the mounting threats to free speech that are polarizing society and eroding American democracy.

Ruane’s legal and advocacy brief will encompass the key issues that drive PEN America’s mission: the impact of disinformation on free expression and democratic discourse in the United States; press freedom; the future of journalism, and bolstering the local news industry; protest rights; and fostering a culture of free expression. In addition to legal strategy, she will develop new initiatives and research, guide legislative advocacy at the state level while also expanding on PEN America’s engagement with partners and coalitions to counter threats to free expression and democracy. Her first day will be Jan. 9.

The Sy Syms Director position is endowed by a generous gift of $1 million from the Sy Syms Foundation, founded in 1985 by the retail entrepreneur and humanitarian. The Foundation has been a longstanding supporter of PEN America’s work to defend freedom of expression in the United States.

Summer Lopez, chief program officer for Free Expression programs, said: “We are thrilled to have Kate Ruane spearhead and drive forward PEN America’s legal and advocacy efforts in defense of free expression in the U.S. Kate brings experience as a dedicated defender of free speech, deep legal expertise in the First Amendment, and a track record of innovative and committed advocacy. As the country faces critical threats to open discourse and democracy itself, Kate’s leadership and passion for free expression as a core human right will help us to build a thriving, high-profile program with significant impact.”

Ruane said: “As disinformation poisons our conversations and trustworthy local news faces unprecedented challenges, PEN America is on the front lines working to understand these threats and developing solutions to neutralize them. For writers and journalists, PEN America stands as an ally, a leader, and a source of support when other trusted systems fail. Moreover, PEN America’s work defending free expression is crucial to achieving true equity and to creating the societal change necessary to protect democracy. I am honored to join this incredible team and am excited to be working with them to advance free expression around the world.”

Marcy Syms, president of the Sy Syms Foundation, said: “The defense of freedom of expression in the U.S. is essential to the endurance of our democracy, and we are delighted to see someone with Kate Ruane’s remarkable level of expertise and commitment take on this vital role.”

At the ACLU, Ruane advocated for the protection of free speech from government incursion and to ensure consumers’ privacy is protected when sharing information with companies that collect data.

Prior to that, Ruane was a legislative attorney for 11 years with the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a nonpartisan federal agency that provides in-depth research and analysis on some of the most challenging questions faced by members of Congress and staff as they consider legislation. In her role at CRS, Kate served as an expert on the First Amendment’s freedom of speech clause. She also covered issues involving telecommunications and consumer privacy.

A native of Scranton, PA, she earned her J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law in May, 2007 and a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 2002.


About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. Learn more at pen.org.

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057