Kansas State University


Graduate School

Alumni Fellows

2013 Graduate School Alumni Fellow John Ruffin, Ph.D.

The ultimate measure of a university’s success is not its curricula, facilities or programs, but the quality of its alumni.

As a well-respected leader and visionary in the field of minority health and health disparities, John Ruffin, Ph.D. ’71, has devoted his professional career to improving the health status of racial and ethnic minorities and other medically underserved populations.

In acknowledgement of the significant contributions he has made to minority health and health disparities, Ruffin has been named the 2013 Graduate School Alumni Fellow. The K-State Alumni Fellows Program recognizes alumni who have distinguished themselves in their careers.

Ruffin is the director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. In addition, he provides leadership for the minority health and health disparities research activities of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Over the course of 20 years, he led the transformation of the NIH minority health and health disparities research agenda from a programmatic concept to an institutional reality. Ruffin was also responsible for planning the largest biomedical research program in the nation to promote minority health and other health disparities research and training.

Ruffin’s commitment to creating new learning opportunities to educate individuals, communities and academic institutions has impacted local, regional, national and international communities. His life-long commitment to academic excellence, improving minority health, promoting training and health disparities research has earned him multiple distinguished national awards. He has received the Department of Health and Human Services’ Special Recognition Award, the U.S. Presidential Merit Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award for National Service.

Ruffin received a bachelor’s degree in biology from Dillard University, a master’s degree in biology from Atlanta University, a doctorate in systematic and developmental biology from Kansas State University and completed post-doctoral studies in biology at Harvard University.

He also holds an honorary doctor of science degree from Spelman College, Tuskegee University, the University of Massachusetts in Boston, North Carolina State University, Morehouse School of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Tulane University, Dillard University and Medgar Evers College.

Other Alumni Fellows

Of the 12 other Alumni Fellows honored this year, eight received advanced or professional degrees from K-State. To learn more about these Fellows and their successes, click the links below. When asked about their time at K-State and how their experiences at K-State prepared them for the challenges they have faced during their careers, this is what a few of them had to say:

Brigadier General Mark R. Stammer  Division of Continuing Education

“The fundamental principles of my adult education experience continue to inform and shape my leadership philosophy and all my actions.”

Barry E. Robinson ’80, ‘81  College of Business Administration

“My undergraduate and MBA experiences at K-State provided me with an exceptional foundation for my 32+ career at Ernst &Young. The teachings for me went far beyond mere classroom learning to other skills that are a must in the business world today. These included enhancing my communication skills through campus activities, working in teams on group projects, developing effective time management skills and instilling a work ethic of preparing high quality deliverables on time every time. I also look back with great fondness on my role as a Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) responsible for teaching entry level accounting for two semesters. The GTA experience taught me the importance of listening to others, understanding different points of view and adopting new approaches in order to mentor others throughout my career.”

Dana J. Peterson ’98 ‘00  College of Agriculture

“My experience with the Alumni Fellow program was humbling. Being able to return to campus, interact with professors and fellow alumni as well as students gave me the opportunity to reflect on the numerous returns on investments made years ago while I was attending KSU. Experiences in the classroom, in clubs and organizations as well as on a traveling competitive team are some of my greatest treasures and come to mind often as I work in the agriculture industry. It is such an honor to be able to thank those investors in my life and career and to celebrate with fellow alumni from around the world who are leaders in their field. The professors who I worked with in the graduate program are some of my most respected ‘investors’. My advice to current graduate students would be to take every opportunity to get to know your investors as they have such wonderful expertise to store up for your future career.”

Dr. Curt Brungardt ‘97  College of Education

“My time at K-State was both challenging and rewarding. The knowledge and skills I gained in my doctoral program encouraged me to be both a researcher and writer in my academic field of leadership studies. The faculty pushed me as a student and cared for me as a person. I hope I model the same behaviors to my own students today.”

Dr. Christie Brungardt ‘09  College of Education

“I became a graduate student in my 40’s in a master’s program and in my 50’s in a doctoral program.  My best advice is to never quit advancing your education. Anyone can learn at any time – regardless of age. Though I wish I would have found teaching as a career earlier in my life, I would not trade my depth of prior experiences for anything. I did not sit in a traditional classroom for many of my courses. My favorite classes on-campus were Diversity in Higher Education with Dr. Doris Wright-Carroll and Qualitative Research with Dr. Trudy Salsberry. Both of those courses taught me new ways to think about very important topics. I will forever be grateful to those two women for helping me ‘see the world’ through new lenses. I have carried my knowledge from both of their classes into my classrooms today. I am a better teacher and researcher because of this new way to think about very different subjects. Again, once a person learns how to learn, the sky is the limit.”

Dr. Elizabeth Purcell-Keith ’74, ’75, ‘79  College of Human Ecology

“My advice for current graduate students includes two main ideas. The first is that anything worthwhile will take hard work and Graduate school certainly prepares you for that. The second is that you must be able to articulate your ideas and knowledge in a way that makes sense to your audience. For example, you may be asked to present the same topic to a professional organization, a hospital or an elementary school PTA. You may need to answer the same question many times over and do so with kindness and understanding.   My special memories of K-State Graduate School are very bittersweet. I was unable to share this incredible honor with my major professor Dr. Tony Jurich. Tony was a bundle of intellect and energy and I will always remember him for his respectful way of guiding me along the path to the PhD. As many of you know, Tony was lost in a tragic accident in 2010. He was a great professor with a huge heart who helped me prepare for my career as a Medical Family Therapist. I will always remember Tony with fondness and for his embodiment of a truly Interdisciplinary education in Family and Child Development and Marriage and Family Therapy.”

Dr. Patricia Solís ’94, ‘96  College of Arts and Sciences

“I would like to share that reflecting on my graduate student days at KSU, it is clear that the opportunities that I had there to take leadership with research, education, and outreach efforts have been very influential not only on the direction of my career path but also for the level of success I have enjoyed. I was able to engage with programs at an intensity far beyond what a master’s student would typically be able to do, and this has made all the difference. For example, I started participating in writing grants early on, was entrusted with meaningful responsibilities for managing international activities and events, and was encouraged to explore research ideas deeply through field work in rural communities. Today, I take this same approach with the young people I work with around the world, and in this same spirit, I truly aim to design ways for them to engage in their studies and build their own futures through the programs I create and manage.”

Terry F. McElwain ’78, ’80  College of Veterinary Medicine

One thought on “Alumni Fellows
  1. Thank you, John, for your selfless service and invaluable contributions to the field of ethnic health care.

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