President Ken Ruscio reflects on legacy at W&L

Ruscio says extra time on campus has allowed for more expressions of gratitude, less rushed exit


Katrina Lewis

by Katrina Lewis

Washington and Lee University’s President Ken Ruscio is fast approaching his last day in Lexington.

Ruscio leaves office on Dec. 31 and will have served as W&L’s 26th president for a decade. The Center for Global Learning was recently named in his honor.

When asked what he would consider his greatest achievement, Ruscio laughed.

“I got nothing,” Ruscio said, “Because everything that I could think of, someone else actually did.”

For instance, Ruscio credited the Vice President for University Advancement Dennis Cross for playing a key role in the capital campaign, the Vice President for Finance Steve McAllister with the renovation of the Colonnade, and Dean of Students Sidney Evans for making changes to first-year residence halls and for making sure Upper- Division Housing was carried out successfully.

“In all sincerity, for everything that has happened in the last ten years, there’s some- one else who’s more responsible than I am,” he said.

He referenced the W&L motto “Non Incautus Futuri,” or, “Not Unmindful of the Future,” when describing the approach he took to serving as the president of the university.

“You never want to lose what makes us W&L, but you have to keep improving and getting better,” Ruscio said. “It’s more an approach than a specific thing that I have accomplished. I tried to always help W&L get better.”

Before serving as president, Ruscio held various faculty positions at W&L between 1987 and 2002: He was a politics professor, the Associate Dean of the Williams School of Commerce, Economics and Politics and dean of first-years.

Ruscio, who took office in July of 2006, said he is proud of the progress that has been made at W&L since he first became president.

“There is a kind of academic vitality that characterizes the university that is more than it was in 2006,” Ruscio said. “We greatly improved our financial aid, we greatly improved our faculty compensation which had been lacking [and] we introduced some great academic programs like ethics, entrepreneurship, integrated and quantitative sciences and global learning.”

Ruscio first announced his resignation in May of 2015 with the intention of ending his term in July of 2016. He agreed to serve as president for the fall of 2016 while incoming President William Dudley finished his work as provost at Williams College in Williamstown, Mass.

“This fall Kim and I have been very deliberate and intentional about making sure that we thank alumni, staff and faculty,” Ruscio said. Dudley, provost and professor of philosophy at Williams College, will assume office on Jan. 1, 2017.

“[Dudley] doesn’t need my advice,” Ruscio said. “He’s a very capable, very experienced person. He knows higher education very well, and he’s getting to know us very well, so I think he’s going to be fine without my advice.”

In April 2017, Ruscio will relocate to Richmond to become the president of the Virginia Foundation for Independent Colleges, a not-for-profit organization that represents the interests of the state’s 15 private undergraduate institutions.

“If I’ve learned anything during my time here at Washington and Lee it’s the impor- tance of private higher education in our broader system of higher education,” Ruscio said. “This is a chance to be a real advocate for what private higher education provides in society.”

Ruscio said that given the nature of his work and his proximity to Lexington, he’s sure he’ll be back to visit.