Friends and family of the late Earl B. and Jane W. Ruth of Salisbury have established an Endowed Scholarship at Catawba College in the couple’s memory. Preference for the scholarship will be given to student athletes, with first preference going to athletes who are majoring in education.
Born in Spencer, the late Dr. Ruth grew up in Charlotte. He spent 21 years of his life at Catawba where he served as assistant football coach, baseball coach, basketball coach, athletic director, chair of the department of physical education, and dean of students. He resigned from the College in 1968 after he was elected as a U.S. Congressman of the 8th District, a position he held until 1975. Appointed by former U.S. President Gerald Ford, Ruth served as Governor of American Samoa between 1975 and 1977. Thereafter, he worked for a brief period in Washington, D.C. with the U.S. Department of Interior. In the 1960s, Ruth was also elected to three terms on the Salisbury City Council and served as mayor pro tem during one of those.
Catawba College Alumni, who played for Coach Ruth, and several of Ruth’s former co-workers at the College, instigated the fundraising for the scholarship fund, according to College Senior Vice President Tom Childress. “This scholarship fund began as simply as a grassroots effort to pay tribute to a beloved coach and mentor, and his wife,” Childress said. “As this core group began contacting their classmates, they found out that others had been positively influenced by Coach Ruth as much as they had. The fundraising effort just kept building on itself until the job was done!”
Nine Catawba Alumni participated in the fundraising effort including Henry V. Lineberger ’51, J. Harvey Stratton ’54, Bob Flynn ’60, Ray Oxendine ’61, C. Douglas Chalk ’60, Sam Moir, Jack Taylor ’48, Larry J. Taylor ’52, Larry P. Graham ’51, and the late M.M. “Chub” Richards ’41 (who died in December).
An appeal letter this group crafted to send to classmates called Ruth “a man ahead of his time,” who “was known by many people and many titles, including Lieutenant, Coach, Dean, Doctor, Councilman, U.S. Congressman, Governor; son, father, mentor and friend.” It goes on to explain: “Coach Ruth was a tremendous influence on us while we were at Catawba, both as athletes and as students. …Along with the rules and strategy of the game, he taught us some important lessons that would help us in life. He cared about us not only as players, but as individuals, off the court or field.”
Ruth, who died in 1989, was a stand-out basketball player at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, serving as captain of that team for two years. After he had earned both his graduate and undergraduate degrees there, he served in the U.S. Navy during World War II before his discharged at the rank of lieutenant. He joined the Catawba College community in 1946.
Ruth married his wife, the former Jane Wiley of Charlotte in 1938. She was a graduate of Queens College. Mrs. Ruth was an active “faculty wife,” who enjoyed living on Catawba’s campus (in Newton Hall and the Ruth-Richards House) and raising the couple’s four children in the college environment. Both Earl and Jane made lifelong friendships among other faculty families. She died in 1996.
The Ruths’ four children include Billie Ruth Foil ’61 of Atlanta, Earl Wiley Ruth ’65 of Richmond, Va., Marian Ruth Sanders of Fairfax, Va., and Jackie Ruth Burleson of Salisbury
The Ruths’ daughter, Jackie, expressed gratitude to the Catawba College alumni and friends who contributed to the scholarship fund memorializing her parents. “My siblings and I are truly grateful to those who have chosen to honor the memory of our dad and mom in this lasting and meaningful way. It is wonderful to know that future Catawba students will benefit from this scholarship. The years Dad spent in athletics at Catawba and also as Dean of Students were very happy years for our entire family. In fact, we feel that we are still a part of the Catawba family.
“I know our parents would be touched and very grateful for this honor, as we are.”
Endowed scholarships at Catawba are established through gifts of $10,000 or more.