Story by Kevin Lyon, for The Muleskinner
The first thing that jumps out about Beth Rutt is her positive attitude, even at 9:30 in the morning.
“You always have to have a smile,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a choice that I make, to be a happy person.”
Rutt transferred to UCM in 1976 from UMKC, and has been involved in teaching and administration since the early ‘80s.
She was director of the Warrensburg Park and Recreation Department for 18 years from 1980 to 1999.
She has also taught off and on at UCM while being involved in everything from the Warrensburg school district to the annual Johnson County Heart Walk.
Her experience, especially her time as recreation superintendent for Warrensburg, has been very beneficial.
“Helping to make the Warrensburg Community Center helped me a lot when it came to the Rec Center,” Rutt said. “It takes a lot of the pressure off when you have already dealt with things like that before.”
The Community Center cost $5.3 million to build, and doing things like talking to contractors and designers helped Rutt when she was assisting in making the $20.5 million Student Recreation and Wellness Center a reality.
Rutt has been director of Student Activities at the Student Recreation and Wellness Center since it opened.
She talked a lot about the Recreation Center, and about what it offers students who are paying to use it. “You are paying $300 in fees every year to use this place,” Rutt said. “Not enough students know that, but they are.”
Rutt has been working with the Recreation Center since the idea for it first came up more than five years ago, and she has been the director of Campus Activities since 2003.
She helps works with everything from Spotlight events, to student organizations, to helping construct new campus buildings.
The center ties in with her love for students and for recreation itself. “I like what I do because you see people at their best,” Rutt said. “People grow intellectually and physically when they are more active, and you can see it right before your eyes.”
When she received the J.P. Mees Professional Staff award in 2009, the words of her colleagues and her students praised her open work hours and community involvement.
The Mees Award is given to an exemplary UCM staff member every year, and according to several of her former students, she was a huge influence on their lives.
In a press release for the April 2009 ceremony, a student said Rutt was “the reason I want to be a student affairs professional.”
Rutt’s confident voice and constant laugh are not things that most people who work early in the morning are used to.
“I’ve never had trouble being a people person,” Rutt said. “I’ve always really enjoyed my job.”
Her office is filled with Mules banners and trinkets, but its also lined with pictures of family and former students, reminders of what she tries to accomplish every year when she teaches classes.
“When you teach a student how to make a fire without matches, go camping, anything like that,” Rutt said, “it makes them feel proud.”
Self-sufficiency is something Rutt teaches her students, because it is something that she feels is very important to them succeeding outside of a campground or forest.
“It gives them huge confidence,” Rutt said. “That’s the best thing that they learn in any class.”
Along with student activities, helping run the Rec Center and all of her other duties, Rutt also teaches two courses at UCM, Outdoor Skills I and II.
“That class is awesome,” James Ingram, Ellis CA, said with a laugh. “I think the final is we go camping. I’m so glad I signed up for that, its pretty cool.”
Rutt said she is very excited about the class. Besides teaching her students about the outdoors that she loves, she also gets to introduce many students for the first time to something they may have never experienced.
“I grew up around this stuff,” Rutt said with a smile. “Hunting and fishing were a huge part of my life when I was a kid.”
Her mother was a school teacher and her father worked for the Missouri Farmers Association.
One of her main recollections of her childhood is hoeing bean fields for $1.45 an hour on the weekends.
She has been involved with UCM for more than thirty years, and her feelings about her job have never really changed.
“Lyle Beaver, he was our departmental chair, and he always said you could recreate, or you could re-create,” Rutt said.
“That was always a big thing for me, thinking about it like that. There’s stress sometimes, but now that I’m older, I’m just calm, cool and collected.”