The Archibald and Frances Rufty Foundation has made a gift to Catawba College to fund the Lt. Joe Hearne Rufty Memorial First Family Scholarship. The scholarship is being established in the memory of Mrs. Rufty’s step-son and the late Mr. Rufty’s son, who was killed in Vietnam on January 29, 1970.
The Ruftys, originally from Salisbury, moved to Las Vegas, Nevada in 1989. They had previously established two other scholarships at the College which were consolidated as the Archibald C. & Frances F. Rufty First Family Scholarship.
Lt. Joe Hearne Rufty, for whom the new scholarship is named, was born February 23, 1945 to the late Archibald C. Rufty and his first wife, Betsy Ross Rufty, who died in 1953. He was the namesake of his late uncle, P.F.C. Joe Hearne Rufty, who had been killed on Anzio Beach in the invasion of Italy during World War II.
The Vietnam War was at its peak when Lt. Joe Hearne Rufty graduated in 1967 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with a degree in business. He was a member of Pi Kappa Alpha Social Fraternity while an undergraduate.
Shortly after earning his degree, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to Officers’ Candidate School at Ft. Benning, Ga. He was commissioned a second lieutenant on March 20, 1969 after completing his training there.
Lt. Joe Hearne Rufty married Jane Anthony English of Salisbury on March 8, 1969 while he was stationed at Ft. Benning.
He was sent to Vietnam on November 10 and assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He was promoted to the rank of first lieutenant on January 25, 1970, four days before his death. On Jan. 29, 1970, he became the 21st Rowan County man killed in Southeast Asia since the beginning of the Vietnam War.
"Joe Hearne enjoyed life as much as anyone I have ever known," Mrs. Rufty explained. "Even though he was with us such a short time, he accomplished much and, more importantly, gave much during his lifetime. He loved his family, his friends, and his country. I trust the recipient, or recipients, of this Scholarship Fund will gain inspiration from the life of Joe Hearne, will strive to achieve, and in so doing continue to memorialize his life."
"The Ruftys have a long record of supporting Catawba College," said Catawba Senior Vice President Tom Childress. "Their physical distance from our institution has never separated them from it. Even after Archie’s death, Frances has continued the family tradition of support for the College that they both had established."
The late Mr. Archibald Rufty was a 1935 alumnus of Catawba and earned his doctor of jurisprudence degree from the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill. He was a former prosecuting attorney and judge of Rowan County Court and past president of the Rowan County and 19th Judicial Bar Associations.
Mr. Rufty served on the Catawba College Board of Trustees from 1981 to 1987. He was elected as Trustee Emeritus of that Board in 1989 and served in that capacity until his death in 2002. He was past president of the Salisbury Lions Club, the James L. Fisher Sunday school class and the Lutheran Brotherhood of St. John’s Lutheran Church. He also served as a member of the St. John’s Church Council and past chairman of the Democratic Party of Rowan County.
Mrs. Rufty, the former Frances Fulk, grew up in Spencer. She earned both her undergraduate degree from Duke University and her law degree from Duke Law School. At the time, she was the only female in her graduating class from law school. She and her late husband were married in 1955.
She served as a member of the Judicial Nominating Committee for Superior Court Judges, past president of the Rowan County Bar Association, and a member of the N.C. Bar Association and Rowan County Bar Auxiliary. She was the first woman to be elected to a major political office in Rowan County, serving as clerk of Superior Court from 1958 to 1966. She was also the first woman to be elected president of the N.C. Association of Clerks of Superior Court.
Mrs. Rufty also served on the Catawba College Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1989 and was a member of the College’s Planned Giving Advisory Board. She is a past member of the Friendship House Board of Directors, Salvation Army Board, Tarheelia Girl Scout Council Board of Directors, Army Advisory Committee, and County Committee for 1960 White House Conference on Children and Youth. Additionally, she is a past member of the Church Council of St. John’s Lutheran Church, the Salisbury City School Board, and the Evergreen Senior Citizen Center Board of Directors.
Mr. and Mrs. Rufty’s other children are Bruce Ross Rufty of Salisbury, Frances R. Parkton of Las Vegas, a 1977 Catawba College alumna, and Archibald C. Rufty Jr. of Las Vegas, a 1982 Catawba College alumnus.
First Family Scholarships at Catawba College are fully funded with gifts of $150,000 or more.