HORIZONS: Fall 2017
R E M E M B E R I N G
Dr. Velma Ruch, longtime Graceland faculty member and Graceland legend passed away July 20, 2017. Born in Lamoni, Iowa, on Jan. 28, 1921, both of her parents were enrolled as Graceland students when she was born. She returned as a student herself in 1939 and graduated in 1941 with the Gold Seal for scholarship.
She completed her bachelor's degree in English from the University of iowa in 1943, and at the invitation of Acting President A. R. Gilbert, Velma joined Graceland's English faculty in 1946. She completed her master's degree in 1947 at the University of Michigan and her doctorate at the University of Wisconsin (majoring in English and minoring in Scandinavian studies) in 1957.
A 40-year faculty member, Ruch’s influence on Graceland and hundreds of students cannot be measured. She became the first woman on Graceland’s faculty to hold a PhD, was chair of the Division of Language and Literature, and was the first woman to lead the college when on July 1, 1974, she stepped in as acting president for a year. Ruch retired in 1986 as Graceland’s first distinguished professor emerita and chose to devote her post-Graceland years to work with the Community of Christ.
Ruch was awarded a Fulbright grant to study in India for eight weeks. This was the result of a course she initiated at Graceland called Religion in the World’s Great Literature, one she considered her signature course at Graceland. The course later provided the foundation for her book, “Signature of God,” published in 1986.
An accomplished author, Ruch compiled and edited a new Norwegian hymn book, “De Helliges Salmer” (Hymns of the Saints). She later wrote "The Signature of God," "The Transforming Power of Prayer" and two volumes of Summond to Pilgrimage. Then, at the age of 84, she wrote another book published by Herald House under the title, "We Journey with Christ: Lenten and Easter Meditation." She went on to write "Transformation: A New Creation in Christ" and, finally, "Finding Home: The Hospitality of God, Meditations for Advent, Christmas and Epiphany." All three books were written and published in 2006.
A profoundly devoted member of the Community of Christ, she described her devotion as the “joy of her life.” Dr. Ruch continues to inspire through generations of students' memories, as well as her authored books. She was a worthy example of one who devoted herself to seek wisdom "by study and also by faith."