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Not for Profit: Ruby Rutnik Scholarship Fund

May 20, 2007 — When St. John resident Ruby Rutnik died in a car crash in 1996 while attending American University in Washington, D.C., the community wanted to find a way to remember her.
"People came up with the idea to have a scholarship in her memory," her mother, Janet Rutnik, said.
Ruby, who was 21 when she died, was a star pitcher at Antilles School, so a softball tournament seemed a natural. However, her mother pointed out that once Ruby went to college, she left her softball career behind to concentrate on her studies.
"The tournament combines both elements," she said.
Janet Rutnik said that the first annual Ruby Rutnik Memorial Softball Tournament was held in April 1997 to coincide with Ruby's birthday.
She said that Delia Thomas, who was a member of the Royal Sister's softball team, and Starfish Market owner David Mugar organized the initial event.
Janet Rutnik said they're not sure who won that first tournament.
She said that Thomas went on to serve as tournament director for several years, with Amy Gurlea following. George and Gayle Deller took over some years ago.
In 1998, Charlotte Amalie High School won, with Central High School going home with the prize in 1999.
In 2000, Central High won again. The years 2001 through 2003 saw Good Hope School go home with the trophy. And then Central High re-emerged victorious in 2004 and 2005. A team from Tortola won in 2006, with Central High regaining the top spot in 2007.
Initially, Rutnik and her husband, former Licensing and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Andrew Rutnik, set a $100,000 endowment as their goal. Eventually, the interest from the endowment would fund the scholarships.
The amount of scholarships has grown from one $2,500-a-year scholarship for a St. John woman to $10,000 worth of scholarships a year.
This meant they had to increase the endowment to $200,000.
"We're very close," Janet Rutnik said.
Andy Rutnik said thanks to the money raised at the recent tournament, the endowment now sits at close to $190,000.
He said that since the tournament began, it raised $275,000, with $64,000 given out in scholarships and $30,000 spent on improvements to the field.
The Scholarship Fund now grants two two-year renewable $2,500 scholarships to St. John women. In 2003, the fund added a one-year $2,500 scholarship to a senior woman from the school that wins the tournament that year.
And in 2005, the fund added a scholarship to any male or female student from St. Thomas or St. John who goes to the University of the Virgin Islands.
Since the fund's beginning, 17 people received scholarships and two received special grants.
St. John recipients include Tessa Williams, Khania Dawson, Tiffany Rogers, Kristen Maize, Jessa Buchalter, Nyeisha Smalls, Brittany Fredericks, Marilyn Callwood, Valerie Trahan, and Raquida Edwards.
St. Croix recipients are Jenna Castro, Sheena Williams and Micah McIntosh.
The fund is holding on to the money to be awarded to the Tortola team until someone becomes eligible for the scholarship.
The UVI scholarship went to Dennis Powell of St. John.
Special awards were given to Claudia Verdant for a summer program at Yale and Jacobi Simmonds to attend college.
Janet Rutnik said that a committee chosen by the board decides who gets the scholarship. She won't disclose the names of the committee members because she doesn't want them to be pressured.
"It's a small community," she said.
The board members are Andy and Janet Rutnik, Peter Muilenberg, Amy Roberts, Audrey Penn, Abigail Schnell, Madaline Sewer, and Andy Stillman.
For more information about the scholarship fund, call the Rutniks at 693-8069.
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