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The Hill School Celebrates the Life of Thomas G. Ruth: The TRuth

Alumni, faculty, and former faculty gathered in Alumni Chapel on Sunday, March 13 to pay tribute to Thomas G. Ruth, instructor of history emeritus, who passed away on February 8. View a video of the service here. Excerpts from the service’s heartfelt tributes to Mr. Ruth appear below.

Headmaster Zachary G. Lehman greeted guests who represented more than three decades of Hill students, parents, and colleagues. “Welcome home,” he said.

Tom Ruth was, he said, “one of the giants of The Hill…. He enriched this institution, and his students.”

Participants included Patrick Hahn ’01, who read from Philippians 4: 4-8, from which The Hill’s motto, “Whatsoever Things Are True,” is drawn.

Ian Stewart ’96 recalled with fondness and humor the way he was greeted by Mr. Ruth as a “lowly” second form student and noted the prolific news updates provided weekly by his mentor following his graduation from The Hill. His emails – the “TRuth news” – were shared with countless alumni and friends, and Ruth’s emails contained not only world news articles but also information about Hill graduates and their families and careers.

“Tom was the hub of our wheel,” Stewart said. “We are all sons of ‘the TRuth.’”

Stewart still cherishes the wisdom Ruth shared with him when he told him that “to study history is to study the world…. To study history, is to study humanity.”

Before his passing, Stewart was able to ask Ruth how he came to be such a great and beloved teacher. “He said, ‘Do what you love, and you will be good at it …and you will have a good life.”

Former Hill teacher Michael LaMantia recalled how Ruth served as an invaluable mentor, not only as a classroom teacher but as a dormitory parent. LaMantia also praised Ruth’s immense institutional memory and knowledge.

“He made people feel always valued, always appreciated, always welcomed,” LaMantia said, a sentiment shared by all who spoke at the memorial service.

Justin Newton ’91 observed, tongue-in-cheek, that Ruth would surely be “horrified to see that we are spending so much time on this when there’s clearly something more important on Meet the Press.” In all seriousness, however, Newton explained how Ruth always recognized each individual’s best potential, and held each boy accountable to encourage him to put forth his best effort.

Furthermore, “Tom was always there for you – for both the best parts and the worst parts of your life.”

Carl C. F. Gachet ’81, a current Hill faculty member, shared an impression of Ruth’s distinctive way of speaking, and confided that “I was never really able to call him ‘Tom,’ even when I became a faculty member.”

Mr. Ruth “set standards for continued involvement in Hill life,” Gachet said.

“Mr. Ruth would be proud of his shining city on The Hill today,” Gachet declared, noting by name numerous current Hill faculty members who carry on Ruth’s tradition of excellent teaching, loyalty, and devotion to the School – as well as the commitment of staff in Buildings and Grounds, Security, and other offices. “The best way to remember Tom is with your service,” he added. “Long live Tom Ruth.”

John Bartenstein ’93, who among other alumni was by Ruth’s side during his final weeks of life, recalled a trip to his mentor’s Sun City, Ariz. home and a visit to an area safari park tourist attraction – an excursion that Ruth vigorously resisted. At one point a giraffe put his head through the tour bus window where Ruth was seated, and proceeded to lick Tom’s face enthusiastically.

“Tom was beaming,” Bartenstein said, noting that Ruth was, in the end, gracious, accommodating, and upbeat despite his reluctance about the tour. “It was the biggest smile I ever saw on his face…. When you take someone completely out of his comfort zone, you really get to see that person.”

Echoing his fellow alumni, Bartenstein noted that Ruth always emphasized that his students should be true to themselves and to their passions.
He told Ruth in his final moments that “he was a father figure to hundreds of boys who have become wildly successful men,” thanks, to a great extent, to Ruth’s guidance, teaching, and love.

Friends continued to share their memories of “the TRuth” at a luncheon in the Dining Hall following the service.

An upbeat celebration of Mr. Ruth’s life will be held on June 11, 2016, as part of Reunion Weekend. Reflections about Mr. Ruth as well as questions may be directed to Bill Robertson ’92, director of alumni relations, at brobertson@thehill.org.

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