Get to know Elder's new man in charge

Get to know Elder's new man in charge
Posted at 7:00 AM, Mar 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-05 08:17:08-05

CINCINNATI — Elder High School’s new principal is a familiar face.

Kurt Ruffing has spent 30 years as an Elder faculty member, currently serving as the school’s assistant principal. Ruffing will replace longtime Principal Tom Otten, who is retiring at the end of this school year after working at Elder for more than 50 years.

Ruffing, a 1981 Elder graduate and lifelong Delhi Township resident, has been approved by Archbishop Dennis M. Schnurr to head the Catholic boys high school beginning in July 2016.

When Otten became principal 19 years ago, he selected Ruffing to fill his vacated position as assistant principal, and he’s pleased that Ruffing will now follow in his footsteps as principal.

“He’s the right temperament, has the right set of values and respects students and teachers,” Otten said. “He’s a good listener and a smart man. He knows what we are all about here, and he knows what we are trying to accomplish. He loves this place.”

In addition to serving as assistant principal for the last two decades, Ruffing is dean of students and has additional responsibilities in finance, facilities and safety. He also teaches calculus and coaches wrestling. He previously coached baseball for 14 years.

This weekend, Ruffing wraps up his final few days as part of the wrestling coaching staff as Elder competes at the state level. Ruffing wrestled during his days as an Elder student.

He and his son, Ryan (a 2010 Elder graduate), are the only Elder father and son to have both placed in the state wrestling tournament – Kurt Ruffing placed sixth in 1981 and Ryan Ruffing placed eighth in 2010.

In addition to their son, Ruffing and his wife, Tara, have three daughters, who all attended neighboring Seton High School.

In 1985, when Ruffing was a senior at Miami University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in math education, he returned to watch Elder in a wrestling tournament and ran into the principal at the time – Ruffing’s former religion teacher – who offered him a job teaching math at his alma mater. Ruffing accepted the offer a week later and has been at Elder ever since. He later earned his master’s degree in administration from Xavier University.

“When I came out of college, my dream goal was to become a principal at some point,” Ruffing said. “It’s an honor and a privilege to be able to do this. The people I work with, the teachers and the staff, to me, they are like a second family.”

Fellow Elder math teacher and wrestling coach Rob Oberjohann considers Ruffing both a friend and a role model – and he appreciates that Ruffing always has a joke at the ready. Ruffing was Oberjohann’s teacher and freshman coach when he was an Elder student. He also encouraged Oberjohann to pursue teaching.

“Every step of the way, starting in high school, he’s been one of the people I look up to,” Oberjohann said. “He’s a great guy and embodies what Elder High School is and how we are shaping young men.”

Ruffing said he intends to maintain the school’s traditions and honor the loyalty of its strong alumni base.

“I have some huge shoes to fill following in Tom Otten’s footsteps with the school and in the community,” Ruffing said. “I believe Elder is a good school, but we can always get better at what we do. I hope to make Elder the premier high school in Cincinnati.”