On March 16, the Spartan Center was filled with nearly 600 people, all gathered to mark the inauguration of David A. Ruth, Ph.D. as president of Northampton Community College (NCC). Dr. Ruth became the fifth president of NCC on July 1, 2022, having prior served with distinction as the college’s vice president and chief of staff since 2016.
A COMMITMENT TO STUDENTS
Liberty High School Fife and Drum Corps and Fan Fare Trumpet Corps welcomed attendees as faculty, staff and those from area colleges and the community processed with Dr. Ruth to begin the ceremony. NCC graduate, Catina Gordon ‘19, sang the national anthem and the alma mater at the opening and close of the ceremony, respectively. NCC Chorus performed the musical interlude halfway through the program.
Dr. Ruth graduated from Hagerstown Junior College (now Hagerstown Community College) in Hagerstown, MD. As a first-generation college student, he told the audience he understands the critical role community colleges play in providing access to life-changing education for traditional students, working adults and first-generation college students as well as those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Inspired by NCC’s unwavering commitment to student success and its leadership in the regional communities in which it serves, Dr. Ruth is charting a bold course for the future of NCC. Chris F. Martin ’77, Executive Chairman, C.F. Martin & Co., and Board of Trustees Vice-Chair, Bruce A. Palmer ’77 and Chair, Robert R. Fehnel ’75, made it clear they were proud to be NCC alumni and have great confidence in Dr. Ruth’s vision for the college.
“NCC has seen positive changes in the last 8 months,” said Palmer, “a president who is involved, is vital to the success of the students.”
Dr. Ruth also stands firmly behind the “student-first” mission of NCC. “He’s positioned to transform the lives of students at every age,” said Steven R. Follett, Board of Trustees Vice-Chair.
“The one thing that is most clear to me is that we must build on our focus to serve students, not just their academic needs and preparing them for successful futures, but their immediate physical, economic and mental vitality as well,” Dr. Ruth said.
A PRESIDENT THAT CARES
Vertel Martin, criminal justice professor at NCC, spoke of the faculty and staff’s commitment to facing hurdles and challenges alongside the president. “You remind people what they do matters, show appreciation, and we will fully support you and serve this college.”
“The college takes care of its people, which starts at the top,” said Eden Pugliese ’08 and chair of the alumni board of directors.
“You have hit the ground running, and your passion embodies everything NCC way stands for,” said current student Mackenzie Hutchison of Dr. Ruth’s part in making NCC feel like home instead of just a place to learn.
Some teachers in Dr. Ruth’s childhood made him feel the same, like his 1st grade teacher Connie Deavers (Giles), who created a passion in him for education and learning. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher and shape lives, just like Miss Deavers.”
Dr. Ruth has been educating students for more than three decades, both as an adjunct professor and college administrator.
After receiving his associate degree, Dr. Ruth earned degrees in mathematics from Frostburg State University and Lehigh University before earning his doctorate at Drexel University.
“At Lehigh, I was a graduate residence hall director, still planning to be a high school math teacher. Along the way I got bit by the higher ed bug. I had found my new passion in the field of higher education administration,” Dr. Ruth said. Lehigh was also the place he met his “rock” and “calm in the storm,” his wife, Christine.
Dr. Ruth worked at Drexel University where he flourished during a 23-year career in academia and also earned his doctorate in educational leadership and learning technologies. From Dr. Ruth’s old stomping grounds, Drexel University President, John Fry, addressed the audience saying, “He is a talented and humane leader,” words that were echoed throughout the night. “He cheers his students on, assisting them where needed and excited by their triumphs.”
As the former vice president and chief of staff at NCC, after his time at Drexel, he served as the chief advisor to the college president while overseeing several key administrative areas. He helped lead the charge at the college during a challenging time, the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Ruth created strategies around resources for students, access to learning, and DEI efforts, to name a few areas of focus.
U.S. Representative Susan Wild said, “The nationwide search attracted many candidates for the position of NCC president, but the right person for the job was already here, a fixture of our education system.”
A WAY FORWARD
During the investiture ceremony, Robert R. Fehnel ’75, Chair, Board of Trustees presented Dr. Ruth with the Presidential Medallion of NCC, an enduring emblem of the college and a ceremonial symbol which is placed around the neck of the college president at the time of the president’s installation. The medallion is a timeless symbol of the college that is worn by the president at official ceremonies, and functions as an outward manifestation symbolic of the office held.
Handcrafted in bronze, the medallion is emblazoned with the words Excellence, Access and Diversity, the cornerstones on which the college was founded in 1967 and words that Dr. Ruth stands behind. “We aspire to provide an environment where all our students, faculty, and staff can be honored and celebrated for being themselves with all the rich diversity that brings. While we have made tremendous progress as we strive to accomplish that, we know we still have work to do.”
The evening was punctuated by the presence of three former NCC presidents, including founding president Dr. Richard Richardson, Dr. Art Scott and Dr. Mark Erickson who gathered to welcome the most recent member of this elite group.
Dr. Erickson expressed, “He provided me with invaluable guidance. He’s a people person, kind, engaging, empathetic, and caring. He’s a hugger,” as was evidenced by Dr. Ruth’s embrace with Erickson following his speech, “He cares deeply about making a human connection with all whom he encounters. He genuinely listens. Utilizing your talents, he will make this college go far.”
“I have seen the emergence of a community college leader, ready to move this college forward,” said Dr. Erickson.
The President of DeSales University, Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, closed the ceremony with a blessing.
“Having great ideas that bubble up from every level of the organization (donors, alumni, students, faculty, and staff) will help us address the challenges that we face with new and different approaches. You have all heard the saying ‘it takes a village…’ well at NCC it takes the entire community,” Dr. Ruth said.
See all images from the evening here.