“We knew it would help students who were struggling.” —Jim Ruck

Last spring alumnus Jim Ruck of Everett made Washington State University an offer it couldn’t refuse. The chemistry graduate visited his old department and asked for a “wish list” of things the department could use. He made similar requests of Food Science and Human Nutrition (FSHN), Intercollegiate Athletics, and the WSU Libraries.

“In each case they found something they needed,” he says. “Given some choices, you look at what appeals to you and what would have the best value in your mind.”

Jim and his wife, Lee (née Neff), have made donations to WSU for 43 of the 47 years since their graduation in 1954. Their combined gifts and pledges now exceed $100,000.

The positive results of their generosity are evident throughout the University. A recent gift enabled the Owen Science and Engineering Library to order the Handbook of Organic Compounds and The Gels Handbook, two important reference resources. Earlier, Jim and Lee established two $25,000 endowed graduate fellowships—one in chemistry, the other in food science. And the Rucks agreed to underwrite the cost of a computer projector for multimedia presentations in FSHN, in part because Lee, who earned a degree in home economics, particularly enjoyed her classes in food science and human nutrition.

“They were very responsive to our needs,” department chair Alan McCurdy says. He adds that graduate fellowships supported by Rucks and other donors “often make the difference between a student finishing a degree or not.”

The Rucks designated $25,000 to WSU’s planned indoor practice facility for varsity sports and additional monies to women’s volleyball. After visiting with faculty and graduate students in chemistry about the work they do and why, Ruck says he had a “good reaction” to what he saw and heard and designated funds there as well.

The Rucks started out by earmarking $25 a year for WSU. “We knew it would help students who were struggling,” he says.

Ruck came to WSU from Tacoma. Lee, reared in Pateros, was in the first group of women to move into Regents Hill when the residence hall opened in 1951. After graduating, she taught home economics for two years in Enumclaw and then spent 16 years at home raising two daughters and a son. Before retiring in 1992, she taught specialneeds students at Everett High School for 18 years.

Jim held many jobs, but none longer than six-and-a-half years and, strangely, none in his major, chemistry.

“After I’d been doing something for a while, there seemed to be something else I wanted to do…a new challenge,” he says.

He sold insurance in Los Angeles, worked for the Carnation Co. in Wisconsin, and then for a Milwaukee company that manufactured five-gallon steel drums. Later he was employed by a firm that made truck and tractor seats. In 1967 he joined Boeing as an industrial engineer in Everett, before becoming production manager for the Washington State Department of Corrections at the reformatory in Monroe.

There he improved the technology for making license plate tabs. He also supervised the prison dairy farm, print shop, and shops where inmates made industrial furniture and mattresses.

Ruck said he was always confident in his ability “to handle new circumstances.”

“That’s the way he is,” Lee says.

For example, he has completed six marathon races, including the 1989 Boston Marathon, which he ran at age 60.

The Rucks display personalized WSU license plates on their 1999 red Mercury Cougar.

“A lot of that is loyalty for WSU,” Ruck says of the increasing number of WSU license plates he sees on both sides of the state. “It’s a symbol that WSU is something special.”