Jim Rutrough

Alumnus Finds There’s No Investment Like Education

James E. Rutrough, Jr. (College ’71)

The son of two teachers, James E. Rutrough Jr. grew up in a family that valued education.

“The importance of education was dinner-table conversation every night,” Rutrough said. “Appreciating what my own education did for me took longer.”

Still, with his background, it’s not surprising that his volunteerism and charitable giving have been directed toward educational causes, an extension of the values instilled in Rutrough by his parents, Nelva H. and James E. Rutrough Sr. (Curry ’68).

“Everything I do, whether volunteering or providing financial support, has some tie back to education, one way or another,“says Rutrough. “There’s more leverage in the dollar you give to education because it offers a larger long-term return.”

As an English major at the University, Rutrough remembers classes taught by the late Douglas Day, Clifton Waller Barrett Professor of English and director of the Creative Writing Program, and the late President Emeritus Edgar Shannon. “They stood out in their field and knew their subject,” he said. “They were entertaining and engaging.”

After graduating, a bad knee prevented him from joining the military, so the Radford, Va., native accepted a position with the State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co. Rutrough found State Farm a good fit both for the company’s approach to business and for its approach to philanthropy, which focused on national and international educational initiatives. In particular, the company encouraged Rutrough to become involved with Junior Achievement USA, an organization that educates young people about the business world—involvement that continues to this day.

Rutrough maintained a lifelong connection to U.Va., but increased his level of involvement last year, when he retired to Charlottesville and left Midwestern winters behind, after 40 years with State Farm. He now serves on four U.Va.-affiliated boards and in the spring of 2011 finished funding the James E. Rutrough, Jr., Jefferson Scholarship. The full, four-year scholarship was awarded for the first time last fall to Amir Jalal Tabaian (Engr ’15), a first-year student from Forest, Va.

Rutrough also has named the Virginia Athletics Foundation a beneficiary of his 401(k) retirement plan. With six grandchildren, including a granddaughter who is playing Olympic Development Program soccer, Rutrough believes in the importance of healthy minds in healthy bodies. “Student athletics are an important part of what U.Va. does,” he said.

What is his hope for the University? That it surpasses Mr. Jefferson’s vision of academic excellence, not only for its students but for society as a whole.