Ruiz prizes respect and difference

The Academic Dean is settling into his new role as he strives to create a world of equal education

Academic Dean David Ruiz chips away at his    workload in his office.

Gina Napolitano

Academic Dean David Ruiz chips away at his workload in his office.

Gina Napolitano, Staff Writer

New Academic Dean David Ruiz has been wasting no time in acclimating himself to the community.  Ruiz came on board during the last week of June, which allowed him to  communicate with former Academic Dean Tom Addicks before his predecessor left. After a brief visit to his former home in Philadelphia to get the rest of his belongings together, he came to the school and began working on July 1st.  Even though he hasn’t much downtime, he is grateful for the “support and help from the IT department, Ms. Boudreau, and the other administrators.  The students have been fabulous- I can’t complain.”  

Although this is his first year at MacDuffie, Ruiz has a rich background in education.  He got his degree in History and Spanish Literature from the University of Pennsylvania, then “did my graduate work at the UMass Amherst School of Education and got my Masters there,” says Ruiz.  He began his career in education at Northfield Mount Hermon, which was an opportunity for him to return to the Pioneer Valley, an area that he loves.  “My daughter came back and went to Amherst College, so I’ve always had an affinity for this area.”  

Most recently, he was employed at Girard College in Philadelphia.  Contrary to the name, the school is not a college or university.  It is an elementary through high school for mostly disadvantaged students who are below the poverty line, and board at the school, allowing them to get a free and necessary education, which Ruiz describes as a safe haven.

  He greatly enjoyed his time there, but Girard College is going through a financial transformation due to the 2008 recession.  They recently decided to become a school for 1st-8th graders, compromising Ruiz’s position as Head of the Upper School there, so he decided to look around for other jobs.  “MacDuffie presented itself as an opportunity and it looked like a good fit for me,”  said Ruiz.  “It was a tough decision to leave, but coming back to the Pioneer Valley was something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time.”

In his free time, Ruiz watches a lot of sports and is a big baseball fan- being from New York, he is both a Mets and a Jets fan.  (He is still recovering from the Mets’ World Series loss.)  After raising three children, he and his wife are now empty nesters, and although he goes on many vacations with his children, he jokingly remarks that “my disco days are over.”  Lately, he has been reading a lot as well.  “I’m about halfway through a book that has a lot to do with the United States’ relationship with Puerto Rico.  Usually if I do read, they are books that have to do with issues of social justice, education, or rights and privileges,” explains Ruiz. “I’m always trying to figure out how I can be more proactive and be part of the solution- ways to empower myself and not just sit on the sidelines.”  He has also recently read Promoting Racial Literacy in Schools by Howard Stevenson and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander.  

Ruiz finds himself fitting in well at MacDuffie “because of the diverse environment and [the ability] to bring different worlds together- my own personal mission.”  He believes our school is a place where students and teachers can bring their own beliefs, passions, and moral and ethical values to the table and compare and contrast their similarities and differences, which, according to Ruiz, makes for a very unique experience.  This experience also allows graduates of the school to “see the world through a different lens” because we can have dialogue here that is beneficial to the rest of the world at large.

 “With everything that’s going on in the world, who better to represent our and other countries in this national dialogue?” asks Ruiz, in reference to MacDuffie students.  While it is difficult to meet everyone’s needs here, especially when it comes to class schedules, he’s excited to be working at the school.  “While there have been challenges, the people here that I’ve worked closest with have gone out of their way to make my time here very welcoming. People have embraced me and my ideas,” says Ruiz.  He is also glad to be back in the valley because it takes him away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and it is “a progressive area in terms of educational models.”

He adds,“I’m at a place in my life where I always assume best intentions.  It’s the only way I can look at the world, because there is a lot going wrong.  Even when people do or say things that are irresponsible, I try to find the best in them.  It’s been a good transition [from Girard College to MacDuffie] and I’m thankful.”

Ruiz strongly believes that every child deserves an education regardless of their background, race, or financial means.  “I have a very strong passion for matters that involve equality and justice.  I just want there to be a level playing field in the world,” he says in reference to young people receiving a quality education.  All children should be “treated with respect, and have a voice.  We have to honor where people are in their lives and respect everyone; if we do that, it will make for a better world.  That is a passion of mine, and I think a lot of that just stems from the fact that I was afforded those opportunities.  I went to private school.  My parents were in a position to provide me with a this education, so for me it’s all about giving back.  I want to make sure others are afforded those opportunities as well.  I don’t ever want to see a child denied them.  If we can create that kind of a world at MacDuffie where people grow and flourish despite their familial, financial, racial, and gender based circumstances, it will make the future better.”