From the Archives: Remembering the Ruby
From the Zwinglian Literary Society to the Mandolin Club, a wealth of Ursinus College history can be found in the pages of the Ruby Yearbook. But how did this annual get its name?
The Ruby is a real “gem” when it comes to Ursinus College history. In its pages one can find a wealth of information about each student class dating back to 1896. From clubs and organizations to sports and Greek life, every event that created lasting memories for our students over the years is recorded in photographs, stories, poems and songs – even in cartoon drawings. Cherished events like Commencement and Homecoming can be found along with other traditions that have long since faded such as the Lorelei Dance and May Day Pageant. Early volumes contain literary and humor sections as well as detailed class histories and profiles of people who shaped the history of the college. It is one of these individuals, a beloved member of the faculty, who inspired its name.
Samuel Vernon Ruby (1832-1896) was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and graduated from Franklin & Marshall College in 1853. He studied law in the office of Thaddeus Stevens in Lancaster and was admitted to practice law in 1858. A successful career followed until 1861 when he volunteered to defend the nation in the Civil War. Captured in the Battle of the Wilderness in 1864, he spent ten months as a prisoner of the Confederate army. He returned to service until being honorably discharged in 1866, but did not return to his law career. Instead, he turned to education – first as a professor of ancient languages and literature at Palatinate College in Myerstown – and then as chair of English at Ursinus College in 1872. For nearly a quarter century, Ruby was an esteemed teacher and friend to many students. In 1896, while ascending the stairs to Bomberger Hall, he was suddenly stricken and carried into the chapel, where he later passed away – surrounded by faculty and students. Named in his honor, the first Ursinus College Annual states: “Professor Ruby was a remarkable man. He was endowed with a strong and vigorous personality. He had the power to mould and discipline those who came under his instruction. The impress of his teaching has been left upon a whole generation of students.”
For more details about the life of Samuel Vernon Ruby, consult the 1897 Ursinus College Ruby and the April 1896 Ursinus College Bulletin, a memorial issue featuring personal tributes, sermons and a biography of Ruby – as well as his final published poem: “Spring, a Pennsylvania Idyl.”
All volumes of the Ruby yearbook are available to consult by appointment in the Ursinusiana Archives and can be fully searched and browsed online in the Ruby Yearbooks collection in Digital Commons.
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