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Gift creates a special meeting and study space in LeChase Hall

Gift creates a special meeting and study space in LeChase Hall
Rusling gift honors father 

Even at seven, when she’d receive her allowance, Ellen Rusling ’66, ’79W (MA) would set aside a portion of her earnings to help others. She kept a money box with labeled compartments, including one for the church and others for charitable organizations.

“I was very fortunate as a child, and was raised with the understanding that with every gift is a responsibility,” she says. “I was expected to give back to the community.”

The tradition continues. Rusling and her husband Tom are donating $285,000 to the Warner School, a gift that will go toward the naming of the second-floor multi-purpose room in the new Raymond F. LeChase Hall. The Genrich-Rusling Room, designed as a flexible community space, incorporates her maiden name to pay tribute to her father, Woody Genrich, who worked tirelessly to improve education for the children of New York and served on the state Board of Regents for 22 years, including seven years as Chancellor.

Rusling’s family on both sides placed a high value on education. Her father sold Christmas trees and raised bees to sell honey to pay his way through law school. Her mother and grandmother were college graduates at a time when few women were. Her maternal grandfather sold a piece of his farm when it was time for one of his children to go to college, and her paternal grandfather, who left home at 13, was nonetheless well-read, eventually obtained a high school diploma, and made sure every one of his 11 grandchildren had U.S. savings bonds.

Married at 19, Rusling, who lives in Pittsford with her husband, delivered her first child on the day of her graduation from the University of Rochester. She began operating a preschool out of her home two days a week when her oldest daughter reached that age, an experience that “really opened the door to me in terms of my development as an educator,” she says. “It was about creating opportunities for each child to explore and learn.” (Rusling has three grown children, two of whom earned graduate degrees from the University of Rochester, and five grandchildren.)

In addition to participating in her family’s hotel and real estate business, the retired school psychologist and family therapist, who received her Ph.D. in psychology in 1984 from Syracuse University, volunteers in the community with alternative education efforts. Her involvement most recently was with an organization that helps urban middle-school students learn how to make good life choices, including maintaining a focus and drive to attend college. Over the past two years, she also has assisted with a project to get more baby boomers interested in mentoring.

“I mentor because I’m a mother archetype,” she notes, bringing up something she has learned about herself since entering into her post-retirement work as a life discernment consultant. As such, she helps people identify their gifts and potential when they consciously integrate mind, body and spirit into their lives.

Rusling has felt called to be of service to the University of Rochester since 1987, when she was appointed to the Trustee’s Visiting Committee to the Warner School. She has actively served on the Warner School’s Dean’s Advisory Committee for 15 years and currently serves on the Warner School National Council, and, with her husband, is a George Eastman Circle Charter Member at the Benefactors level.

Raffaela Borasi, dean of the Warner School, considers Rusling a model example of what steadfast commitment and service can do to help an institution evolve.

“The ambitious vision and course being charted for the Warner School are made possible through the acts of leadership, dedication, and support carried out by outstanding friends like Ellen,” she says. “We are honored and grateful to count her among our most remarkable alumni and also among our most beloved advocates.”

The 1,250-square-foot Genrich-Rusling Room will allow students, faculty, staff, and community partners to gather for meetings, films, lectures, professional development, and other events. When not in use for formal activities, the room will be open to students as a study and lounge area.

“The Warner School is important to me, and it has not had the appropriate or adequate space for the seriousness of its task,” says Rusling. “Educators hold the keys to the development of our children, how they will be able to accept responsibility and how they will be able to form the future, so it’s very important to invest in and honor them.”

Rusling envisions the space as a place where, just as her preschoolers did years ago, students can decide for themselves what they need to move forward in their development.

“It will allow them to create, explore, learn, and play,” she adds, “and that’s critical.”