Purdue alumnus Rusty Rueff believes in giving back to the university where he got his start.
In 2004, Rusty and his wife, Patty, donated $5 million to Purdue to create the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts, deeming it the largest gift ever received by the College of Liberal Arts. This semester they have donated again to contribute to the “creators of tomorrow.”
“Patti and I both are strong believers that the visual and performing arts are important to the health and wholeness of our society,” Rueff said. “Where better to ensure that we can count on artists and creators of tomorrow to be there, than investing today in education of the arts. Of course, Purdue was a natural place to make this investment.”
Rueff graduated from Purdue University in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in radio and television and in 1986 with a master’s in counseling. At that time, Rueff’s ambitions included working in and contributing to the business aspects of entertainment and media. This ambition, while somewhat circuitous in its realization, was just the start of a booming career.
Rueff spent six years in radio as an on-air personality, working up and down the dial while going to school full-time for college and graduate school. He then realized being a major market radio personality was not the dream he wanted to pursue and shifted to business in different industries, holding out hope that he would someday return to entertainment or media.
He spent two years working for the Pratt & Whitney Division of United Technologies and the 10 years following, holding positions with PepsiCo companies working in human resources.
Rueff eventually did find himself back in entertainment. In 1998, he joined Electronic Arts (EA), a leading entertainment software company. As the company grew to become the world’s largest videogame developer and publisher and as videogames themselves began to become a household form of entertainment, Rueff’s career grew.
Rueff left EA in 2005 as an executive vice president responsible for many facets of the business and went on to become CEO of SNOCAP, the first company to provide digital music commerce solutions to social networks, including the largest social network at that time, MySpace. In 2008 Rueff sold SNOCAP and began another chapter of this career.
Today, Rueff keeps his hands in the technology and entertainment world as an angel investor and advisor to new start-ups. He serves on the corporate boards of Glassdoor.com, HireVue, and Rethink Books. He is president of the board of the San Francisco-based American Conservatory Theater (ACT), vice chair of The GRAMMY Foundation in Los Angeles, a member of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) and the National Association of Recording Arts and Science. His most recent endeavor is as the Coordinating National Co-Chair for Technology for Obama.
Aside from his corporate commitments, Rueff still finds time for Purdue. He serves as a director of the Purdue Foundation and is a member of the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council.
Rueff works to share his experiences with others. He is co-author of Talent Force: A New Manifesto for the Human Side of Business. He also regularly contributes to a number of blogs, including Glassdoor.com’s “Clearview Collection,” and his personal blogs, “Bolts of Thinking” and “Purposed Working.” He also travels the country speaking at events and corporations.
In 2003 Rueff, a “proud” graduate of Purdue, was brought back to his roots when he was honored as a Distinguished Purdue Alumni.
“Being named a distinguished alumnus of Purdue University is about as close as it gets to what it must feel like to be inducted into a hall of fame,” Rueff said. “One never imagines or sets out for this recognition, but when it does come it is rewarding and validating and reminds you to be grateful for all those who were there for you along the way. Without them, it would never have been possible.”
Rueff urged current students to spend their college years preparing for the future.
“None of us have any idea what tomorrow will bring, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be prepared for what will come,” he said. “Today is the day to take advantage of that preparation time. Take in someone that you never experienced before that is there for you while you are at Purdue. Being prepared is having a broad view of life and yourself. Don’t waste the vast opportunities for learning, exposure and relationships you have at Purdue.”
Written by Ciara Ungar
Senior, Communication, Professional Writing, and Law & Society