Rusty Rueff has an impressive resume. He’s been CEO of a music company, a high-level executive at Electronic Arts and PepsiCo, and an on-air radio personality. Rueff currently serves on several corporate and philanthropic boards, and last year President Obama appointed him to the Advisory Committee on the Arts for the John F. Kennedy Center.

Rueff also has a lengthy list of contributions to Purdue. He and his wife are the benefactors of the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts, founded in 2004.  He has held positions on former President Martin Jischke’s Campaign Cabinet, the Purdue Foundation Board, the College of Liberal Arts Dean’s Advisory Council, and President Mitch Daniel’s Champions Committee.

But last fall, he did something few Purdue alumni have ever done. He came back to live on campus.

Rusty Reuff
Rusty Reuff speaks to students in a classroom in the Krach Leadership Center as part of his Executive-in-Residence stint.

Rueff became Purdue’s first live-in Executive-in-Residence, spending a week in an apartment in the newly-opened Third Street Suites residence hall reserved for visiting executives who come back to Purdue to interact with students in both formal and informal settings.

“It was awesome. Each day I spoke to different groups and gatherings of students and faculty on all kinds of different topics and aspects of my experience,” Rueff said. “There were many student dinners and lunches where open conversation was encouraged, which typically flowed into career advice and business stuff.”

The idea is to provide students with face-to-face opportunities with a successful professional, a more personal experience than a guest speaker or a classroom setting.

“Because all of these sessions were totally voluntary, everyone who was there wanted to be there and that makes a difference. When an alum is asked to speak to a class where the students have to show up, it can be hit or miss as to whether a connection is really made. In these sessions I felt that there was always good engagement and dialogue,” Rueff said. “Since the program, I have had contact with a number of the students and some are on their way to some pretty cool internships and experiences because they reached back out or took me up on the offer to stay in touch.”

Rueff, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Radio and Television and a master’s in Counseling, said an interdisciplinary education combined with the knowledge he learned outside of the classroom helped secure opportunities he wouldn’t have otherwise.

Rusty Reuff dines with students
Rusty Reuff dines with students in Wiley Dining Court.
“Purdue and my liberal arts education provided me a life-view of possibilities and exposure to many career, philanthropic and civic opportunities,” Rueff said. “Because Purdue educates across almost all disciplines I was exposed to professors, courses, students and activities that provided me with the opportunity to pick up and learn about so many things that later in life I was able to use.”

Rueff credits spending time in college with his friends who were software and technical engineers with helping him get a job with video game titan Electronic Arts.

“I wouldn’t have ever thought that a decade-plus later that ‘osmosis’ learning would help me get a life-changing job.”

Living in Third Street Suites for one week last semester was a little different than the last time the former residence hall counselor and RA was living on campus. Rueff said he was blown away by the residence hall, the dining courts and the CoRec, and would encourage other professionals to participate in the Executive-in-Residence program.

“If you want an experience where your time feels multiplied and leveraged for high impact, this is it,” Rueff said. “If you want to do something that when you are done, you feel like you have done something that matters, then just say yes!”

Writer: Matt Vader | Editors: Elizabeth Hartley, Tammy Loew, Danielle Fawbush

Editorial Board: Barb Frazee, Tammy Loew, Elizabeth Hartley | Inquiries Contact: studentlifemarketing@purdue.edu