Graceland has just learned that lifelong Gracelander Velma Ruch has passed away. Ruch graduated from Graceland College in 1941 and then returned as part of the English faculty in 1946. She became the first woman on Graceland’s faculty to hold a PhD, and later chaired the Language and Literature Division from its creation in 1965 until 1984.
Ruch was involved in the work that led toward Graceland’s emergence as a four-year school and was instrumental in beginning the majors in international studies and English. On July 1, 1974, Ruch became Graceland’s first woman leader when she stepped in as acting college president for one year. On May 25, 1975, Ruch joined Bruce Graybill in becoming the first Graceland faculty members to be awarded the title of distinguished professor.
As she neared the end of her accomplished Graceland career, Ruch joined Barbara Higdon in being the first women ordained to the RLDS (now Community of Christ) priesthood on campus during a ceremony held in Shaw Center on Feb. 23, 1986.
Ruch retired in 1986 as Graceland’s first distinguished professor emerita, emerging as the second person to be a member of the college’s faculty for 40 years and the only woman to reach that mark. Ruch became the second woman to be ordained an evangelist in the RLDS Church and chose to devote her post-Graceland years to church work.
In 2016, the little blue house that was the home of Dr. Velma Ruch for 68 years became Graceland’s Ruch Cottage. Before moving to a long-term care facility in Lamoni, Ruch wanted to make the house available for visiting scholars and distinguished guests.
The thoughts of Gracelanders around the world are on Dr. Ruch today and the influence she has had on generations of graduates, faculty and staff, alike.
There will be a graveside service at 10:30 Monday morning with a memorial service to be scheduled at a later date.