LeAne and Bruce Rutherford surrounded by current international students (l-r) Syed Zair Jafri—Pakistan, Chuhan (Candy) Zong—China, Hiranya Balasuriya—Sri Lanka, Mariana Osorio - Brazil, Ali Naqvi—Pakistan, and Eromosele Okhiria—Nigeria. Photo credit: Brett Groehler.
For over 50 years, UMD has received students from all around the globe, growing to its present enrollment of more than 200 international students from 40 different countries.
Bruce and LeAne Rutherford, who recently established a scholarship fund, have an intimate knowledge of the hardships international students face when they decide to attend a university in another country. Starting in 1958, Bruce was initially a counselor in the Student Affairs Counseling Office. In 1980, he became the international student advisor at UMD. When he took on the role of advisor, the university had fewer than 70 internationals students. When Bruce left, this number had grown to nearly 175 students.
LeAne, too, taught writing and other classes to international students. “I have a great tolerance for extra ‘esses’ and I truly enjoy it,” she said.
During his years as an international advisor, Bruce learned to expect the unexpected. In the 1980s, UMD earned the reputation of being supportive to Malaysian students, so dozens applied and were accepted. They appreciated UMD because, unlike many other schools, they weren’t required to eat in the residence halls. They were Muslim, with strict dietary needs and cooking their own meals was important. One day Bruce found himself driving students to a nearby farm to purchase chickens butchered in accordance with their dietary standards. “We ended up filling that small black Volkswagen with chickens,” said Bruce.
“How many people can you fit in a phone booth?” LeAne asked. “When they returned, Bruce got out of the car followed by a student with a chicken, and then another student with two chickens, and then yet another.”
Bruce was someone who students could trust. The bold, the frightened and the shy ended up in his office getting answers to questions about classes, professors, visas, passports, customs, and even dating.
During this period, the Malaysian government sent the ambassador of Malaysia and the Minister of Education to Duluth. “We wanted to make them comfortable,” Bruce said. “We found out that meant, among other things, arranging for flags to be attached to the front bumpers of their motorcade.”
After years of helping international students and their families, Bruce and LeAne have found a new way to provide support. They will award the first student scholarship from the Rutherford International Fund this spring. The scholarship is the only one of its kind at UMD and answers a real need. “We remember students who weren’t able to get funds for tuition and living expenses from banks at home because of problems in their countries,” LeAne said.
LeAne and Bruce value the richness international students bring to UMD and they are excited to make financial help available to them. By supporting students from other countries, they are providing a resource for all UMD students. Most of all, they are helping international students to achieve their dreams.
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