The preschool is formally dedicated during a ceremony on Dec. 10.
Karen Rutledge (left), Tom Rutledge and President Geraldine M. Jones join preschool children to dedicate the Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education preschool.
A chilly Monday morning concluded in heartwarming fashion on Dec. 10 as children helped to dedicate the Karen and Tom Rutledge Institute for Early Childhood Education preschool in Morgan Hall.
Funded through a generous gift from Karen and Tom Rutledge, the institute brings teachers from The Village, a nationally accredited childhood education center, to campus to provide high-quality preschool education to eligible children ages 3-5.
The institute also offers exceptional learning opportunities and full-tuition scholarships for future teachers enrolled at Cal U as Rutledge Institute Scholars.
Since it opened this fall, the institute’s preschool program has been housed elsewhere in Morgan Hall while Cal U employees completed extensive renovations.
With many of their family members present, the Rutledges, of Greenwich, Conn., reminisced about their days as a young married couple raising their first child in an off-campus rental while Tom, who graduated from Cal U in 1977 with a degree in economics, worked as cable technician.
He is now the chairman and CEO of Charter Communications.
“California had a real impact on us, a lot of good things happened to us, so this is really a continuation of a longtime relationship of supporting education here,” Tom Rutledge said. “We are very proud of what’s been built and of the scholars. Giving something like this is a tremendous gift to ourselves too.”
“There’s no one happier than me here today, and this has been a joint effort,” Karen Rutledge said. “We expect the Rutledge Institute to be a model of excellence for preschool education, and you are all going to do just great.”
Fittingly, the preschool children played a significant role in the dedication ceremony, which began with 6-year-old Leila introducing Geraldine M. Jones in what Cal U’s president called “her best introduction ever.”
“This is just the beginning of a long-term initiative designed to enhance student learning and build a strong corps of future teachers,” President Jones said. “We believe the Rutledge Institute can have a positive impact on the future of childhood education – and it all starts right here.
“We can’t thank Tom and Karen Rutledge enough for their commitment to our University, our community, our students and the future of the teaching profession.”
Cherie Sears, president of The Village, director of the Rutledge Institute Preschool Program and a Cal U alumna, described how far-reaching the Institute can be.
“With the Rutledge gift and the institute now, we are working on a model that lifts the whole profession of early childhood and enhances the quality education for young children,” she said.
“It’s an exciting time, and we are honored to be part of it.”
Dr. Rebecca Maddas, of the Department of Childhood Education, introduced the Rutledge Scholars.
Currently, 11 children attend the institute preschool program, and seven Rutledge Institute Scholars are enrolled in first-year classes.
Elijah Gilbert spoke on their behalf.
“We thank you for this opportunity that will open so many doors for our futures, gives us a chance to further our knowledge, become leaders in the field and touch the lives of kids such as these adorable ones here,” he said.
“We all come from different backgrounds, but now coming together in this setting, we all have the same purpose and goals: to educate children.”
Rutledge Scholar Aamaria Hall emphasized the invaluable immediate impact the Rutledge Institute provides.
“We’ve just started, but this gives you an experience to work with the kids so much earlier, which is an exceptional opportunity,” she said. “It’s such an important early start for our careers.”