George Ruth Proves the Power of Business-Education Collaboration

Originally published in the Las Cruces Bulletin on Friday, November 15, 2019

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.” 
― Roy T. Bennett

This quote captures the spirit that led to The Bridge of Southern New Mexico’s formation and the strength behind all that has happened since.

We, as a community, are unique in that a group of leaders, who all have enormous jobs in their respective worlds, have committed to work together to address challenges and create solutions for improving academic and economic outcomes in our community. And The Bridge’s board of directors always works with one thing in mind: “What’s best for the student?”

This singular focus enables deep and sometimes challenging discussions about how to serve students better, knowing when they succeed, we all do. Each brings a wealth of knowledge to the table but is willing to listen to one another, ask penetrating questions that challenge conventional wisdom, and devise innovative solutions in which each has a role to play. 

One of those leaders who was there from the beginning is George Ruth. George has been a banker for 43 years, most recently serving as Citizens Bank of Las Cruces’ President and now Executive Vice President. He’s also been a leader in a host of other community organizations, including the Greater Las Cruces Chamber, Community Foundation of Southern New Mexico, and Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance to name a few. He has been a strong, consistent advocate for education in our community, knowing it is the engine of change that will drive our community forward.

George has made an indelible impact on this community, and he is soon to leave us to move to be nearer his five grandchildren, who clearly bring he and his wife, Sandy, so much joy. 

Before he goes, I wanted to thank him for his unwavering commitment to the wellbeing of our community. His leadership of The Bridge is just one of those places where he left an indelible impact.

When I was approached about taking on the job of leading The Bridge in 2010, George helped me see that The Bridge was to be so successful, that one day, we would no longer be needed. He knew we could help our students better navigate from high school to college to career, and The Bridge’s role was to help build literal “bridges” from one to the other. He was a fierce advocate for getting this organization up and running, properly resourced, and influential in driving community solutions – including those that have been adopted statewide.

Dr. Michael Morehead, co-founder and board chair of The Bridge, and former Dean of the College of Education at NMSU and associate dean of the Burrell College of Osteopathic Medicine said, “George had a profound impact on The Bridge. His precision thinking and ability to clearly define the opportunities important to our educational and business partners profoundly impacted The Bridge’s mission and vision. During his tenure, George was able to enhance the commitment to Dual Credit and the Early College High School models being implemented in our community.” 

George is able to ask what I have described, as “surgically-precise questions.” If he knew the answer, he certainly never let on. He just laid the question on the table in a way that forced you to see the issue through a new lens, which then created a forum for dialogue to explore innovative solutions for students.

Another of The Bridge’s founders, Dr. Garrey Carruthers, former New Mexico Governor and Chancellor of NMSU, said, “George was instrumental in advancing The Bridge and its program… and affirming that the private sector was engaged and willing to lead.  George is one of those guys who speaks softly but carries a big stick – the reputation as a very successful business leader.  His confidence in The Bridge in its early years was instrumental in encouraging other business folks to engage.”

Stan Rounds, former superintendent of Las Cruces Public Schools, agreed. “George has been a consistent leader in the effort to collaborate the business community with the mission of preparing our children for future success in our workforce.”

George is a great example what happens when someone steps out of his or her world, out of the comfort zones, and works alongside others they might not have even known before to make a difference. Thank you, George, and thanks to all current and former Bridge board members, for making a difference in our community.