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Legacy of giving

Rutledge Institute furthers Cal U’s mission in teacher education

The largest gift in California University's history will make a lasting difference in the lives of young children, Cal U students and the eld of early childhood education.

The Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education, founded by Karen and Tom Rutledge, extends the couple's legacy of giving to the University. Their gift expands access to pre-kindergarten learning and creates an on-campus pre-K program where Cal U students can master teaching and leadership skills.

"California has been a leader in teacher preparation for more than 165 years," says University President Geraldine M. Jones. "The Rutledge Institute adds a new dimension to this historic mission.

"I'm so grateful to the Rutledges for all they have done over the years, both for our students and for the University. They have a passion for helping others -- not just for today, but in ways that create a long-term impact.

"The Rutledge Institute is one more example of their foresight: It will have long-lasting bene ts for local children and their families, for Cal U students, for our Childhood Education Department, and for the future of preschool education."

"The Rutledge Institute will have ripple effects beyond what we can imagine. By investing in young learners and their teachers, the Rutledges are making a positive change in the lives of countless children, now and well into the future."
University President Geraldine M. Jones

Ready for school

Housed in a bright, airy space inside Morgan Hall, the Rutledge Institute's preschool program will operate in af liation with The Village, a state- and nationally accredited early childhood education center in downtown California, Pa.

Cal U education students will develop their teaching skills as they work with little learners and members of The Village staff, which includes a number of Cal U graduates. The children's activities will focus on STREAM -- experiences in science, technology, reading, engineering, art and math.

“The Village strives to help all children achieve their full potential,” says its president, Cherie Sears ’81, ’17. “We appreciate being selected to work with Cal U to fulfill the institute’s mission.”

Studies show that the most effective early learning programs follow “a well implemented, evidence-based curriculum,” according to a 2017 report by the Brookings Institution. Although outcomes vary, the report concluded that children who have attended quality pre-K programs are better prepared for kindergarten than those who have not.

“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.”

To that end, the Rutledge Institute will fund annual scholarships for 20 children, ages 3-5, to attend the preschool program
on campus each year.

The institute 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. A cohort of 10 teacher candidates per year will enter the program as first-year students and continue through their senior year.

These Rutledge Institute Scholars can expect to graduate with a bachelor’s degree and Pennsylvania teaching certification for grades pre-K to 4. Their resumes will include experience gained in Morgan Hall and Cal U’s network of “professional development schools” — public schools that collaborate with the University and host field experiences and student teachers.

In addition, Rutledge Scholars will take part in a structured peer-mentoring and leadership program, so they graduate with a built-in professional network of highly trained teachers. They’ll also attend a five-week summer workshop focused on innovation in teaching.

“This is a unique opportunity for promising students who are committed to a future in the profession,” says Dr. Diane Nettles, chair of the Childhood Education Department.

“We are looking for highly qualified candidates who are motivated by a passion for early childhood education.”

Lifetime connection

Karen and Tom Rutledge, of Greenwich, Conn., are Washington County natives who first met at their high school in McMurray, Pa. As a young married couple they lived in California, raising their first child in an off-campus rental while Tom worked as a cable technician and earned his Cal U degree in economics.

Today, Tom Rutledge '77 is chairman and chief executive officer 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.

Over the years, the Rutledges' gifts to the University have held personal meaning, reflecting their "lifetime connection" to California and, in Tom's words, "giving back to the place where we created ourselves."

In addition to establishing the institute, the Rutledges support scholarships for Cal U students who are studying economics or raising a family while earning a degree. Rutledge Internship Awards help southwestern Pennsylvania students pay living expenses when they take internships outside the area.

Education made a difference in their lives, the couple says. And it can never start too soon.

"We expect the Rutledge Institute to be a model of excellence for preschool education," says Karen Rutledge. "It's so important to give children a strong start, so they can become lifelong learners."

She helped to design the institute's logo, which depicts the University's iconic clock tower constructed from children's blocks.

"It's wonderful to have the preschool on campus," she says. "The children 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."

Inside Morgan Hall, University work crews are replacing windows, laying carpets and installing pint-sized plumbing fixtures. Outdoors, a fenced area is becoming a playground. The preschool's doors will open this fall.

"This is an important moment in California's history," says President Jones.

"The Rutledge Institute will have ripple effects beyond what we can imagine. By investing in young learners and their teachers, the Rutledges are making a positive change in the lives of countless children, now and well into the future." 

By Christine Kindl, communications director at Cal U

Excel as a childhood educator

Incoming Cal U students who aspire to careers in early childhood education may apply for scholarships awarded by the Rutledge Institute. Rutledge Institute Scholars must meet academic requirements, including a high school grade-point average of 3.5 or higher and qualifying SAT or ACT scores. Letters of recommendation and a written essay on a selected topic also are required. To learn more about applying to become a Rutledge Institute Scholar, contact Dr. Diane Nettles, chair of Cal U’s Childhood Education Department, at nettles@calu.edu or 724-938-4135.

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