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After retiring from his private law practice, Richard “Dick” Ruth ’60 was at a crossroads. Retirement was boring, but he wasn’t sure what to do next. That’s when his son told him there were plenty of people who needed sound legal advice but couldn’t afford it. Ruth volunteered at Legal Aid of East Tennessee, where he’s been a standout lawyer and mentor for the last four years.
The Chattanooga Bar Association recognized him with its Lifetime Achievement Award this year and the Tennessee Supreme Court named him Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year in 2010. Ruth is an in-house pro bono attorney emeritus, a new state Supreme Court initiative created to open avenues of justice to those who cannot afford an attorney. He also is a mentor in the Senior Partner program, advising young lawyers on the ins and outs of law practice.
A sociology major at Moravian, Ruth credits the close bonds he formed with classmates and professors with helping him mature into law school material. Admittedly, he was distracted in high school and considered himself a mediocre student. But Moravian made the difference, he says.
“I’ve always considered myself an average person, but at Moravian I took off,” says Ruth, who earned his J.D. from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, College of Law. “My relationships at Moravian taught me the perseverance and enthusiasm to go forward. I started as a business major, but sociology was the stuff that really interested me. My major readied me to deal with other people; it helped with my understanding of how people think and other cultures’ views.”
At Moravian, Ruth met his late wife Victoria Kokolus Ruth ’59, a member of Moravian’s Athletic Hall of Fame. And as treasurer of Omicron Gamma Omega, commonly known as OGO, and a cheerleader, he also made many long-lasting friendships.
He credits Moravian’s size and the high level of interaction between students and professors with helping him reach the success he has attained. “Without my experience at Moravian I never would have risen to this level. I discovered more than academics, and the combination I found there put me on the road to maturity.”
Ruth restores British sports cars for fun, not easy business, and again he credits Moravian. “I got my foundation for hard work at Moravian—through the close interaction with my professors, and through my fraternity and friends.”
He calls himself a “lost ball in the high weeds” on his arrival at Moravian, but his father had attended on a football scholarship and wanted his son to attend too, even though he had delivered terrible grades in high school. “I was immature and a nothing when I got to Moravian,” he remembers. But my experiences at Moravian totally turned me around.”
"I’ve always considered myself an average person, but at Moravian I took off. My relationships at Moravian taught me the perseverance and enthusiasm to go forward."