2003 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Richard Ruiz

 Rosedale High School — Class of 1968Richard Ruiz

A lifelong resident of Kansas City, Kan., Richard Ruiz has seen lots of changes in his hometown during the course of his life. In fact, he may even be directly responsible for some of those changes.

Richard, who graduated from Rosedale High School in 1968, believed in the early 1970s that a program was needed to serve Latinos exclusively. So, in 1976, he founded El Centro, Inc., with the purpose of providing support for Latino families, whom he felt were being neglected by other service providers.

In 1993, despite years of success, Richard led El Centro through a transformation that included a new mission, purpose, and identity. While Kansas City, Kan., was growing more and more diverse, he realized that not everyone who lived within the program's reach was Hispanic.

El Centro altered its focus to encompass the entire Kansas City, Kan., community working towards the creation of a comprehensive center that serves the total community. Under these new parameters, Richard's vision has been recognized by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation's Reach Awards for Organizational Excellence, as an effective nonprofit organization in the areas of entrepreneurialism, sustainability, and adaptability.

But Richard has found time for other successes outside of El Centro. In 1983, he won election to the City Council of Kansas City, Kan., and was re-elected in 1987. During these terms, he also served as deputy mayor.

In 1990, Richard was selected for the first scholarship for minority managers to the Executive Fellows program, which develops executive potential in middle- and upper-level managers, in the School of Management at Rockhurst College. In 1992, he received a master's degree in business administration. Richard is a Fannie Mae Fellow for Government Leadership at Harvard University and Center for Social Innovation Fellow for Leadership for Non-Profit Management at Stanford University.

Additionally, Richard served on the Governor's Consolidation Study Commission that set the stage for the merger of the Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kan. governments in 1997. He serves under the present governor as a member of the Kansas State Education Policy Task Force. He served three years on the Unified Government's Board of Parks Commission. Richard is an advisory director for Berkel and Company and the Federal Home Loan Bank. He also serves as board member of Donnelly College, Heart of America Boy Scouts, and Brotherhood Bank and Trust. He is married to Rosalinda, is the father of three, and the grandfather of five.