$4.2 Million Gift Founds Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education

Apr 30, 2018

Initiative offers preschool tuition for children, full-tuition scholarships for top students who enroll in the Pre-K to Grade 4 Education program.

Rutledge Institute

University President Geraldine M. Jones (left) looks over plans for the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education preschool with Tom and Karen Rutledge.

The largest gift in California's 166-year history is designed to make a lasting difference in the lives of children, Cal U students and the field of early childhood education.

Karen and Tom Rutledge, of Greenwich, Conn., joined University officials and other VIPs April 30 to announce plans for the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education.

Founded with a gift of $4.2 million, the Rutledge Institute will support an innovative preschool learning program on Cal U's campus. The program will operate in affiliation with The Village, an accredited early childhood education center in downtown California, Pa.

The Rutledge Institute will fund annual scholarships for 20 local children, ages 3-5, to attend the institute's preschool program.

It also will pay tuition, fees and room costs for a select group of highly qualified students who enroll in Cal U's childhood education program. While earning a bachelor's degree and Pennsylvania teaching certification for grades PreK-4, these Rutledge Institute Scholars will:

• Gain experience working alongside The Village's certified teachers and in Cal U's network of Professional Development Schools.
• Implement an innovative preschool curriculum focused on children's experiences in STREAM: science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math.
• Engage in a structured peer-mentoring and leadership development program.
• Attend a summer workshop focused on innovation in teaching.

"We want to make a real difference in the lives of children, as well as Cal U students," says Karen Rutledge, "especially those who otherwise might not have these opportunities."

Giving back

The Rutledges are Washington County natives who spent time at "Cal State" in the 1970s, when they were raising their first child and Tom was earning a degree in economics. At the news conference, they spoke about living in a rental unit near campus while balancing family life, Tom's education, and his entry-level job in the cable industry.

Today, Tom Rutledge is chairman and CEO of Charter Communications Inc., the second-largest cable provider in the United States, with more than 95,000 employees and 26 million customers across 41 states.

This gift is the latest in a series of donations the Rutledges have made to the University. They support scholarships for Cal U students who are studying economics or raising a family while earning a degree, as well as scholarships to help students from southwestern Pennsylvania pay living expenses when they take internships outside the area.

"We expect the Rutledge Institute to be a model of excellence for preschool education," Karen Rutledge says.

"It's so important to give children a strong start, so they can become lifelong learners. At Cal U, they will be taught by excellent teachers -- and everywhere they look, they will see grownups who are going to school and learning, just like they are."

California University is poised to begin recruiting the first class of Rutledge Institute Scholars, and The Village is developing guidelines for awarding the preschool scholarships.

Space in Morgan Learning Resource Center is being renovated to house the on-campus preschool classrooms, which are scheduled to open in fall 2018.

Among those in attendance at the news conference were Annette Ganassi, chair of the University's Council of Trustees, and Cynthia Shapira, chair of the Board of Governors, who thanked the Rutledges on behalf of the board and the State System of Higher Education.

"The Rutledge Institute is a major milestone in California's long history of excellence in teacher education," says University President Geraldine M. Jones.

"I am grateful to Karen and Tom for their generosity and their foresight. By investing in young learners and their teachers, the Rutledges are making a positive change in the lives of countless children, now and in the future."

To learn more about admissions requirements for the Rutledge Institute Scholars program, visit www.calu.edu/rutledge; contact Dr. Diane Nettles, chair of Cal U's Department of Childhood Education, at nettles@calu.edu; or phone 724-938-4135.

To inquire about enrolling a child in the Rutledge Institute preschool program, contact The Village's president, Cherie Sears, at cherie.sears@thevillagecares.org or 724-330-5525.