ADA – East Central University’s Dr. Carl Rutledge, a physics professor, received the 2013 David and Molly Boren Mentor Award on Jan. 16 at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.
The award, presented in conjunction with National Mentoring Month, was sponsored by the Oklahoma Foundation for Excellence and its David and Molly Boren Initiative. The recognition ceremony was held in the House Chambers on the fourth floor of the State Capitol Building.
The event recognized outstanding mentors from all types of youth mentoring organizations around the state. Fifteen individuals nominated Rutledge for the award.
“I am honored to receive the Mentor of the Year Award. The ceremony at the State Capitol was impressive, much more than if it had been held elsewhere,” said Rutledge. “I had only visited the Capitol twice, and this time, to get to sit on the House of Representatives floor and receive my award there was a very special experience.”
Rutledge has worked for more than 20 years for the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). His passion is to get minority students advanced degrees in STEM, mainly by research interest.
“The Louise Stokes Alliance helps underrepresented minority students get connected with members of their department, provides funding and/or employment for them while at ECU, helps connect them with faculty to supervise their research, encourages them to apply for summer research programs throughout the country, and advises them about and helps get them admitted to graduate school,” Rutledge said.
According to Dr. Karen Williams, a professor in the ECU Physics Department, Rutledge spends countless hours in his office, advising biology, chemistry, cartography, sociology and other majors. He has guided them where to present research papers or helped them find schools with bridges to a doctorate, or ordered chemicals or ‘critters’ for their research projects in biology.
“He even sits down beside students and helps them learn PowerPoint to prepare their poster or oral presentation if the student is frustrated with the computer and lacks the skills,” Williams said. “He drives them to the Louis Stokes Research Symposium at Oklahoma State University every year, using his own gas and car, and then writes the students letters of recommendation for graduate school and for other LSAMP Programs there.”
One of Rutledge’s former students, Jonathan Gonzales, is now a Ph.D. candidate, studying computer electrical engineering, at Oklahoma State University, after receiving his bachelor’s degree in physics from ECU. Gonzales praised Rutledge as an instructor and mentor.
“In my aspirations to becoming a teacher, I have looked up to Carl as a model for success and have had the pleasure of taking several of his courses. In all of his courses, he is extremely encouraging, exciting, motivated and helpful,” said Gonzales. “You can immediately see that he is passionate about the subjects by the amount of energy he puts into each lecture. He always has a bounce in his step which makes it easy to share the same enthusiasm. He is well organized and approaches even the most complex subjects with care while always keeping the audience in mind.”
Outside of the classroom, Gonzales says Rutledge has all the attributes to being an excellent advisor and mentor.
“He would always strive to encourage me to be the best that I could be, even in times when I failed him and myself,” Gonzales said. “In times of personal desperation, his talent for lifting my spirits and confidence kept me focused on my goals and helped me to learn to believe in myself.”
Gonzales says Rutledge has the ability to strike a balance between being hands-on and hands-off as a mentor.
“These are attributes expected from a great mentor, someone who knows when to instruct and when to step back to let the student grow,” said Gonzales. “Sometimes, the best thing you can do for a person is to give them confidence in themselves and Carl certainly aimed to do this for me.”
Rutledge was pleased that Jonathan and his brother, Erik Gonzales, were able to attend the ceremony. Erik is currently employed as an engineer at ATC in Oklahoma City.
The ultimate goal of the Louis Stokes program, according to Rutledge, is for minority students to receive a doctorate in a science, math or engineering field.
“Since I began working with the program 20 years ago, we have helped over 213 different minority students at ECU, several of whom have received doctorate degrees,” said Rutledge. “I want to share credit for this award with all the ECU faculty members, in science and mathematics, who have done research with students in the program.”
Kay Porter, program manager for the Oklahoma Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation at Oklahoma State University, says Rutledge is an inspiration to students as well as OK-LSAMP.
“He was one of our founding persons and has mentored students who have gone on to complete graduate degrees, become doctors, dentists and university professors,” Porter said. “He truly is an inspiring man. Students think very highly of him and I know the entire OK-LSAMP Alliance does too.”