Bob Ruekert was a Golden Gopher to the core. From an ever-present University of Minnesota baseball cap to a Carlson School of Management polo shirt, Ruekert left no doubt about his loyalties.
When he died on Sept. 1 after a 20-month battle with pancreatic cancer, the Carlson School's website proclaimed that it lost a "champion." Ruekert was 59 and a 31-year fixture at the school who was admired by faculty and students alike.
An associate dean for the school's undergraduate program since 2001, Ruekert began his academic career teaching in the Carlson School marketing department.
"He was an amazing instructor," said associate undergraduate dean Mary Kosir, who spent the last decade working closely with Ruekert. "He was very approachable and always made time for students."
As a promoter of the undergraduate program, Ruekert was credited with helping to open the school for freshmen, adding international study as part of the curriculum as well as an ethics-and-social-responsibility component, Kosir said.
Ruekert's wife of 24 years, Donna, said there wasn't a question about collegiate or professional sports that Ruekert couldn't answer, particularly about Gophers football and basketball.
"He liked all things Gophers," she said, noting that her husband even helped recruit athletes if they had an interest in the Carlson School. One of his success stories was the landing of Gophers basketball starter Blake Hoffarber.
But home was important to Ruekert too, his wife said. "It was his refuge," she said. "He loved to cook, read and build furniture."
Donna Ruekert said their Minnetonka home was a favorite gathering place during the holidays for their children when they were growing up and as adults.
Even after he was diagnosed with cancer, Ruekert "forged ahead," Donna Ruekert said. When he stepped down as associate dean because of the illness, the Carlson staff made a video paying tribute to his contributions to the school.
"Our family just said 'wow' when we saw it," Donna Ruekert said.
Ruekert received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism and marketing at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, where his first job was selling ads for one of the Madison newspapers, including an insert called "A student's guide to Madison," before he moved westward and hooked up with the Carlson School in 1981.
At the time, students had to be juniors before they could be admitted to the school. At Ruekert's urging, the policy was changed in 1996 and freshmen were allowed to enroll in the school. The 535 freshmen in the school this year is the largest freshman class ever, Kosir said.
Besides wife Donna, Ruekert's survivors include sons Joseph and John, daughter Catherine, granddaughter Aubrey, brother James and sister Mary Ruekert-Hesse.
David Phelps 612-673-7269