The Student News Site of St. John Fisher University

The Student News Site of St. John Fisher University

The Student News Site of St. John Fisher University

The Student News Site of St. John Fisher University

The Student News Site of St. John Fisher University

The Student News Site of St. John Fisher University

In Memory of Dr. Rob Ruehl

In Loving Memory of Dr. Rob Ruehl (1974-2023)

On Tuesday, September 19th, a campus-wide email was sent by President Gerard Rooney sharing the devastating news of the sudden passing of Dr. Rob Ruehl. 

Dr. Ruehl ‘00 was a Fisher alumnus, returning in 2014 to begin his career in higher education, first as an adjunct professor, and later as an assistant professor in Philosophy. He also worked closely with first-year, First-Generation students, where he taught their Learning Communities, titled Ethical Leadership, and attended each of their weekly seminars. In the last decade, he has made a remarkable impact on both his students and colleagues alike. 

A student-led memorial service was held on Tuesday, September 26th to honor Dr. Ruehl’s classroom traditions. Two days later, a memorial event was held for grieving members of the campus community with remarks given by President Rooney, Fr. William Graf, adjunct professor and Ph.D. student Liga Kalnina ‘20, Dr. Barb Lowe, Dr. Timothy Madigan, and Dr. Phillip P. Arnold. Dr. Ruehl’s on-campus memorial service opened with a Land Acknowledgement of the Seneca Nation on Fisher’s grounds. Dr. Ruehl worked extensively with various Indigenous communities throughout his life and career:

“We are gathered at St. John Fisher University on the traditional land of the Seneca Nation, the Keepers of the Western Door and the original peoples of the Five Nations of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca). We acknowledge the Seneca community, their elders both past and present, and future generations. We also acknowledge that many of our institutions were founded upon the exclusions and erasures of many Indigenous peoples, including those on whose land we are located. This acknowledgment is a small contribution to supporting and dismantling the ongoing legacy of settler colonialism and the doctrine of discovery, and it encourages the introspective work and concrete actions to decolonize our communities and our institutions.”

Kalnina is a former student and colleague of Dr. Ruehl. She became a double Philosophy major while at Fisher because of him. She shared that as a student in Dr. Ruehl’s class, she found him randomly calling on her quite often. “I thought I was doing something wrong, so I asked him, ‘Rob, why are you always picking on me in class? Am I doing something wrong?’ He turned to me with a smirk on his face, with that slight laugh he had, and said, ‘I feel like you always have something important to say. You seem like you always have an opinion.’ Well, Rob was not wrong, I did, and I always do have an opinion, but I never felt like I had the voice to speak. Rob not only gave me my voice but also a place to express it.”

“Rob was my professor, he became my advisor once I added Philosophy as my major, but he was more than that. He was my friend, my mentor, and my dad away from home,” said Kalnina, a native of Jelgava, Latvia.

She concluded with, “He touched so many lives, and I am forever grateful that I had him in my life. And I still do, because I feel him walking next to me when I teach. Rob was the reason why I wanted to become a professor. And not only to just teach but to live and to lead by example.”

Dr. Madigan is a professor and Chair of Philosophy at Fisher and a friend and colleague of Dr. Ruehl. “Rob had the rare ability of making you feel like you’d known him all your life after just meeting him for the first time,” he said. 

“It is friends who help us through the darkest times, and friends with whom we share our greatest joys. All of you who knew and loved him—whether for a few days, many years, or his entire life— are members of a special group: the Friends of Rob Ruehl. This is a bond we share, and one we will build upon to make sure his memory lives on.”

Dr. Lowe is a professor of Philosophy at Fisher and a colleague and friend of Dr. Ruehl as well. “Rob’s presence settled the soul, as so many have already said. He made you feel centered just by being in the room,” she said.

Dr. Lowe spoke to Dr. Ruehl’s admiration for philosopher Henry David Thoreau. “Rob argues that for Thoreau, ‘loss of life is part of the natural cycle, yet death is also a possible moment for inspiration that can stimulate us to become a new, better self.’ In other words, for Rob, the death of a loved one, while certainly, certainly a loss, need not only be this. Death can also translate into a qualitatively better life, where the memory, energy, and presence of the deceased continue to positively enhance the present. What makes this possible is what Rob and Thoreau called ‘Preservative Care.’ Preservative Care involves gifts. By gifts, Rob meant talents, ways of being, and qualities of character we each possess, but in different ways. Rob believed we should cultivate our own gifts and we should work to recognize and help to cultivate the gifts of others. Doing so is Preservative Care. In Rob’s words, Preservative Care is an honoring of the gifts of the diminished and departed so we can improve the gifts of those still living.”

“I believe Rob would want us to use this occasion as an opportunity to carry forward his gifts, as well as our own. To impact our communities for good by working to being more connected and more in tune with others.”

Dr. Arnold is an associate professor of the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. He was Dr. Ruehl’s dissertation advisor, mentor, and colleague. “He came into our program knowing exactly what he wanted to do and to accomplish. And it was always to make the world a better place, to resist social injustice, to elevate Indigenous knowledge, particularly around environmental issues and philosophies. But he did this always with great kindness and compassion,” he shared. 

“He loved teaching. He wasn’t in it for a career, necessarily, but for the hope it would bring others.”

Photo by Adelisa Badzic

On the first floor of Basil Hall, as well as several other locations on campus, green posters titled “This is what Dr. Ruehl taught me …” are displayed for anyone to write what they will keep with them from Dr. Ruehl. Some messages read, “The past doesn’t define you”; “Rob taught me to pay attention to my needs and put that at the top of my list”; “To push through the hard times, even when you want to give up. Be well Rob”; “To not be afraid or ashamed to use my voice”; “I always remember what he used to ask us: ‘Is this helping or harming me.’ I reflect on this every day when making a decision”; “Gratitude for life & its gifts. Rob—you’ve made so much good in this world—you will live on as we pay it forward”, along with many more. 


If you or someone else are in need of support, members of Fisher’s Trauma Illness and Grief (TIG) team as well as counselors in Health and Wellness are available for you. 

Rest in peace, Rob.


Grieving process informational guide provided by SJF Health Center
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About the Contributor
Brooke Eastman
Brooke Eastman, Managing Editor
Brooke Eastman is a junior Media and Communications major at Fisher. She currently serves as Managing Editor of the Courier. She is a Rochester native, and has always had a strong passion for writing. She believes that media plays an essential role in our day-to-day lives, and our means of communicating. At the Courier, Brooke covers current events on campus, lifestyle, and pop culture.
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