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Guy L. Patton, President
Michael Ruby Endowed Scholarship to help OU students on their ‘adventure in discovery’
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Michael Ruby’s life was altered by OU courses in the philosophy and history of science. His scholarship will ensure that other students have the same opportunity.

As a young University of Oklahoma engi­neering physics student, Michael Ruby thought his job was to listen to lectures, read assignments, work the problems and memorize, memorize, memorize. But required liberal arts courses on the philosophy and his­tory of science set a course for discovery that would change his perspective and his life.

Ruby has established a fund at the OU Foundation to change others’ lives as well. The Michael Ruby History of Physics Endowed Scholarship will benefit undergraduate stu­dents majoring in history of science, physics and astronomy, or engineering physics.

“Up to the point that I had taken Philoso­phy of Science, I was studying my texts and solving problems because I wanted to get the problems right and I wanted to pass my tests,” Ruby said wryly. “By taking those classes, I began to really see that physics is an adven­ture in discovery, and that what I was doing in my engineering, physics and chemistry classes was trying to answer questions about why the world behaves the way it does.”

That same perspective influenced Ruby’s professional and personal life. The 1962 gradu­ate founded Envirometics, a successful Seattle air-pollution control company, and served as a consultant to the World Bank, World Health Organization and Pan-American Health Or­ganization. He was a member of the Gallo­gly College of Engineering Board of Visitors and previously established an OU engineering physics scholarship.

“Science and engineering, and society as a whole, develop a paradigm, a certain belief system, and we tend to believe things that may or may not be supported by real, on-the-ground evidence,” he said. “That’s why I feel very strongly that people who are in a STEM education program need to appreciate the his­tory of how they got where they are, the basic scientific method and the concept of scientific paradigms. We need to encourage more people to do that.”

OU’s History of Science Department is among only a handful of highly ranked pro­grams of its kind in the nation. OU has offered a graduate program in history of science since the 1950s, and both undergraduate and gradu­ate tracks are closely tied to the university’s re­nowned History of Science Collections, a pre­mier research resource with more than 100,000 volumes on every aspect of science, technology and medicine.

“Scholarships supporting undergraduates are of enormous value to students in our pro­gram,” said Hunter Heyck, professor and chair of OU’s Department of the History of Science. “They also are very important to the depart­ment, because they bring our program to the attention of talented students, highlight their achievements, and serve as tangible signs of the continuing connections between our past, present and future.”

Though supposedly retired, Ruby continues to build connections. He recently organized an international symposium on environmental pollution in Shanghai, China, that paired Chi­nese researchers with peers from throughout the West. “The idea is to create a broader com­munity for many of the Chinese scholars, who are, in some ways, a little isolated from the rest of the world,” he said.

Ruby realizes that few people will make his­tory of science their life’s work. “But by study­ing it, scientists and engineers can gain an un­derstanding of context and what they’re about. And some people will share that understand­ing with others,” he said.

Ruby was able to make his gift by designat­ing OU as the recipient of his IRA Required Minimum Distribution, and encourages oth­ers to consider this tax-free method to benefit students. “More than anything else,” he said, “developing a scholarship at OU is really my appreciation for what I learned as a student, which I think made me who I am.”