The ’90s Kids: Dr. Richard DeJesús-Rueff Says Goodbye to the University

Nearing the end of our Fisher 75 series, we focus on a group of faculty and staff that joined the community in the 1990s. We interviewed English Professor Deborah VanderBilt, Head Football Coach Paul Vosburgh, and Academic Director of the First Generation Scholars Program Richard Dejesús-Rueff. Read on to learn more about Dr. Dejesús-Rueff, and in case you missed it, go check out the previous piece on Dr. VanderBilt and Coach Vosburgh.


Spring 2019 | DeJesús-Rueff Given Achievement Award - St. John Fisher  University
Recent Faculty Photo

Dr. Richard DeJesús-Rueff planned to stay at St. John Fisher College for a mere 3-5 years. Since deciding that, he has seen the student population triple in size, the campus buildings expand, and the college turn into a university. Without him, Fisher would not be the way it is today. But, what exactly made him stay and spread his wealth of knowledge? 

Dr. DeJesús was initially hired as the Dean of Students where he worked alongside President Katherine Keough. As one can imagine, Fisher was vastly different compared to today. In fact, the only residential buildings on campus were Ward, Haffey, Murray, Murphy, two floors of Dorsey, and Michaelhouse. During his time as the Dean of Students, he and President Keough helped create plans to develop large sums of the campus including Founders Hall, Keough Hall, the third floor of Dorsey Hall, Campus Life Center, and additions to the Ward-Haffey Dining Hall. The development took 10-15 years of consistent work to become the thriving and unique campus it is today.

The physical development of the college was a small part of what Dr. DeJesús accomplished. In 1999, he created the First Generations Scholars Program. Due to this program, many first-generation students are able to receive financial assistance, resources, and support systems that allow them to attend higher education and graduate. Previous students have gone to do progressive and impressive work in and outside of the Rochester community. 

When asked how he has seen Fisher change in terms of diversity, he discussed how the First Generation Scholars Program helped support underrepresented groups. Since the student population has increased, Dr. DeJesús has interacted with students from multiple backgrounds such as Serbia, Albania, and Bosnia. Putting focus on these groups of people, and making them feel welcomed into campus life, is important because that “kind of diversity . . . does not get appreciated as much.” 

“More than anything else, the First Generation Scholars Program kept me at Fisher,” Dr. DeJesús said. He has worked with every cohort of first-generation scholars from the inception. His values – leadership, volunteerism, diversity, equity, and inclusion – have been represented through this program, and each of his students has received knowledge that can never sport a price tag.

Dr. DeJesús has worked with many students in his time at Fisher, and his impact continues to be seen through campus and individual growth. However, he has decided that it is time to depart from the Fisher community. At the end of the 2023 academic school year, Dr. DeJesús will retire and leave the future of Fisher and Rochester in the skillful hands of the next generation. 

“Be patient,” Dr. DeJesús emphasizes. “Nothing is perfect. But, we’ve done a pretty good job overall.” While Dr. DeJesús is a legacy in himself, he wants others to know that there is always work to be done. One does not have to change the world to make things better.