Thomas R. Ruttledge, a resident of Ellis Hollow in Ithaca, New York, died Tuesday, May 19 at the age of 55. Tom was born July 4, 1964 in Detroit, Michigan. A child with bleach blond hair and the bluest of blue eyes, Tom was raised by two loving parents in a family of nine children in the suburbs of Detroit. His affinity for eccentric sunglasses started at an early age, earning him the nickname “TR the Movie Star.” Growing up, he loved spending many summers at his maternal grandparents’ cottage on Ipperwash Beach on Lake Huron (Ontario, Canada) and his paternal grandparents’ home on Lake Michigan (Sawyer, Michigan).
Tom became fascinated with chemistry during an Organic Chemistry course taught by a notoriously difficult professor at Wayne State University. After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree, Tom ventured to the University of Chicago to receive his PhD and eventually onto Cornell University for post-doctoral studies. His teaching career included positions at Whitman College, University of Chicago, Earlham College, Ursinus College, and Cornell University.
During his time teaching, Tom was loved and respected by students and colleagues alike. He believed in challenging students-inspiring many to realize their full potential, and his sense of humor and patient explanations will be missed by many. The last three years of his teaching career at Cornell, Tom piloted a program called CHAMPS with the goal to provide rigorous preparation to minority students for the challenges of Organic Chemistry and careers in the sciences. He considered the success of the program and the students to be his greatest accomplishment.
Tom had a passion for new ideas, places, and people. These interests led him all over the world, including some of his favorite locations in Paris, Africa, and the Finger Lakes. There was always a sparkle in his eye when sharing stories of his travels with friends, family, and students.
He was just beginning to enjoy the first months of retirement when on a glorious day after a long and beautiful bike ride, Tom pulled off to the side of the road, unclipped from his bike for the last time, and had his generous heart fail him.
Tom is survived by his mother, Carol, and father, Charles along with siblings Debra Kocaj, Patty Oswald, Jennifer Baerlocher, Robin Wroby, Charles Ruttledge, Krista Biedul, and Jill Henson; he is predeceased by his brother, Michael Ruttledge (1999). In lieu of flowers, please honor Tom’s memory by living for today. Those who wish to donate may make a gift to the Cleveland Museum of Art, as Tom was an avid supporter of the arts.