A Part of the Webster Family

Susan Ruiz, MBA ’11, MS ’15

Sarah Butler, MA ’16

 by Jennifer Starkey, BA ’98, MA ’16

Susan Ruiz decided to forego relaxation in retirement, after a 38 year career with AT&T. Instead, she hit the books again to finish another Webster degree — this one an MS in finance — to help prepare for what she calls her post-retirement career. Ruiz, who earned that second master’s degree at the end of the fall 2015 semester, now volunteers in San Antonio.

Ruiz’s daughter, Sarah Butler, began working at Webster as a representative at the University’s Lackland Air Force Base campus in 2014, immediately after earning an undergraduate degree at Wayland Baptist University. This past January, she was offered the position as director of Webster’s Fort Sam Houston campus. Today, like her mother, Butler also is a Webster University alum after graduating in May 2016 with a master’s degree in human resources management.

Photo courtesy of Susan Ruiz
What attracted you both to Webster University?

A business colleague of mine received his MBA from Webster at Fort Sam. He was very complimentary of the program and encouraged me to attend. It did take me a few years after the encouragement from my colleague to attend. I ended up going to Webster one particular afternoon to inquire about classes and pick up a brochure. After the meeting with then Fort Sam Director, Joyce Peavey, I was enrolled in Webster and ready to begin my wonderful journey.
Since I enjoyed the experience so much, I chose to do a second master’s degree at Webster and since I initially could not decide between the MBA and the finance program, the sequential degree option seemed like a good choice to continue learning and expanding my knowledge base.

My mom was actively involved with Webster University’s Alumni Association, and she saw a job posting for one of the campuses here in town, so I applied. I was finishing up my undergraduate degree at the time and actively seeking employment. Ultimately, I was hired with Webster University two weeks before completing my bachelor’s degree. I often reflect on how much of a true blessing it was for my life.

Photo courtesy of Susan Ruiz
You both were working on your degrees at the same time. What was that experience like?

I definitely went to my Mom for advice in grad school! I will say our coursework was so different that we didn’t have the opportunity to work on the same things, or be in any of the same classes. However, it was always fun to talk to one another about a struggle with a paper or project, the successes of a completed course, or the late nights to get things done. It was definitely another item to add to our list of fond memories.

We did talk about each other's classes with regards to milestones in each class. It was interesting to hear about Sarah's classes since her concentration was different than mine.
It is always fun to have something in common with your daughter. We have many things in common, so this was just an additive to our list. Education was another experience to share and having that experience at Webster was fabulous.

It sounds as if education is a priority in your house. How have you both demonstrated a love of learning with your families?

My mother has always been my biggest role model and inspiration. She showed me how important education was through her actions. One of my favorite memories from childhood is our trips to the Public Library in Downtown Houston. She and I would spend hours exploring the books and activity of the library. By the end of the day we would checkout what seemed like a gazillion books and head home to start reading. She always said, “The more you read, the better you’ll get!” I think I have tried to apply that mantra to many aspects of life.

I have always believed education is a key to success. I tried to encourage Sarah by example. I am proud that she achieved an advanced degree and is working with students in an academic environment. I am certain she can provide inspiration to both her children and students to achieve education goals.

I have two children — both boys. Gregory is 12 and Loren Jay is 8. I believe the importance of education is instilled in us from an early age. For my children (especially my oldest), he witnessed my undergraduate and graduate education. He would hear me talk about late nights, long assignments, and successful completion. If nothing else I hope it teaches my boys that sometimes when you want something bad enough it doesn’t matter how little sleep you got, or how flustered an assignment made you… what matters is you put in the hard work and got it done.
I’ve been able to involve my son in Webster already — he helped volunteer with my mom and me for Webster Works 2016 so perhaps he is a future Gorlok?

Photo courtesy of Susan Ruiz
Not only did you share your experience of getting a master’s degree, but you also traveled to St. Louis for the 2016 Commencement. What was that like?

This was my second time to attend commencement. On my first trip, I was able to see the beautiful main campus and meet the alumni staff. The second trip was much more exciting since Sarah and I would be walking the stage together. We were able to stand with one another in line and while in line met a married couple graduating together. Sarah and I were given a special announcement when walking across the stage and have a picture together on stage with the Dean.

It was fabulous to be there together! I really enjoyed my time at the Commencement Ceremony at the main campus. In fact, I was able to see a few of the students I had worked with in San Antonio. I enjoyed the experience as a student. Often times my experiences with the university are as a staff member, it was so fun to be a student face in the crowd!

Photo courtesy of Susan Ruiz
How has Webster impacted your lives?

Growing up I always had a desire to be a part of education. I contemplated teaching while I was in my undergraduate studies. In fact, it was my declared major for a while, but my plans (and major) changed after my experience teaching practicum for third graders.
I was concerned I might not end up working in education, as I had always hoped. This is why it truly was a blessing to be hired at Webster University. I am able to help people every day — further their education, fulfill their dreams, and reach their goals.
I never would have imagined working for such an amazing institution, with wonderful colleagues, faculty members, and students.

My Webster University experience came after spending many years in the corporate world and Sarah was in the early stages of her career. I have watched Sarah grow in her professional role during her time at Webster. Since we are now both alumni, we have another common bond and are both strong supporters of Webster.
I am proud to be an active member of the Alumni Association. I recently have transitioned from the San Antonio Chapter Leader, a position I held for about 5 years, to the Alumni Association Board of Directors. I am so grateful to continue to be part of the Webster family.

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