Many English Department students and faculty are also affiliated with the Ball State Honors College and were deeply affected by the passing of Dr. James Ruebel, who had been the Dean of the Honors College since 2000.
“I’ve been acquainted with Dr. Ruebel since he arrived at Ball State many years ago,” Professor Elizabeth Dalton remembers. “We’ve worked closely for the past six years working together to teach an integrated humanities class every fall. For four of those six years we also led field studies to Rome and, usually, Florence, Italy. These were two-week field studies where students explored art, architecture, history, and literature of the cities.”
Drew Miles, a senior Creative Writing major, was one of the students who accompanied Dr. Ruebel on one of the trips to Italy. “My favorite memory of Dr. Ruebel was when he, my friend Katie, his wife Connie, and I ate dinner together at a restaurant in Florence, Italy. We shared very heartwarming conversations and learned a lot about each other’s lives. It was an event I will always treasure,” he says. “Dr. Ruebel taught me in classes throughout my freshman year and took my class on a trip to Italy. He mentored me in several different ways, most importantly in persistence and giving. He was a leader, an altruist, and a friend. He believed in his students and I always felt his support when I faced obstacles in my life.”
Professor Dalton also reflected fondly on her trips to Italy with Dr. Ruebel. “He offered our students a great deal to ponder during his Roman Forum lectures and tours, which transformed the ruins into a living city. An indefatigable navigator of the city, he often led the group on walking tours of more than five or six miles a day in order for students to visit important and sometimes out-of-the-way sites, such as the Keats’s grave in the Protestant Cemetery or the Anita Garibaldi sculpture on the Janiculum. His fascination for the city was infectious, and his example as a traveler and scholar inspired our students,” she recalls.
Dr. Brent Blackwell also had plenty to say about Dr. Ruebel. “Jim was a great mentor and friend to everyone he engaged with, from students to colleagues. My fondest memory with him occurred about three years ago. I was in Montepulciano, Italy on my honeymoon. I told my wife that we needed to get Jim a bottle of the best wine we could find, since he was a lover of fine wine, and much of what they produce in the Montepulciano area is not shipped out of the country. After sampling many of their finest, we settled on a nice bottle of Ercolani Rosso from 2011. We carefully packed it in our luggage and kept it close like a newborn. When I got back to the states and presented the bottle to Jim, I gave him the entire story of the wine, even remembering the name of the vineyard where this particular bottle was born. I was so proud, knowing how much Jim enjoyed fine wines. I said, ‘So you’ll have to save this for a special treat with your wife, Connie.’ After he thanked me, he shot me his wide, sylvan smile and said that he would be cracking this cork that evening. ‘A wine like this comes around once in a great while,’ he said. ‘So never set such a fine specimen on a shelf to dust away. Enjoy it immediately.’ I laugh to myself every time I think about that smile. Why treat such a fine thing like an artifact, locked in a museum? Enjoy it now while it’s here.”
Professor Dalton concluded her interview by painting a picture of the kind of man that Dr. Ruebel was. “Dr. Ruebel was genuinely interested in the academic and personal well-being of Honors College students. He was a generous educator whose office door was nearly always open to students passing through the building, and students felt comfortable stopping by for a chat. He advocated lifelong learning through reading and the study of the humanities not only in the classroom, but through example. He was an avid and curious reader of a broad range of literature, and he enjoyed the visual arts. I will miss working with such an excellent educator. Students, staff, and faculty will miss his steady and encouraging presence in the Honors College.”
A celebration of Dr. Ruebel’s life will take place on Sunday, October 23 at 1 PM in Sursa Performance Hall for anyone wishing to pay their respects.