Ruby Saake '84

A brilliant networker, good listener, beloved connector of people, and quintessential university citizen, Ruby Saake ’84 began her service to Cornell when she was still an undergraduate. She worked in Robert Purcell Union, served on the Third World Student Programming Board, and worked with a coalition of concerned students to make a case for divestment from South Africa before the Cornell University Board of Trustees. After she was elected by her peers to a seat on the Board of Trustees, she continued to faithfully represent the concerns and interests of the student body.

Her first job after graduation was in Cornell’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, where she helped increase Cornell’s enrollment of first-generation college students and students of color. A significant number of Cornellians credit Ruby with encouraging them to attend Cornell and assuring them that they could thrive there.

While in admissions, she volunteered as an alumna to launch the first instance of a Cornell Black Alumni Association (CBAA) Reunion integrated into Cornell’s Reunion Weekend. She co-chaired the planning committee, helped form the honorary committee, and in 1989 spearheaded the first ever CBAA scholarship, The CBAA Tradition Fellowship. She also served on the planning committee and helped form the honorary committee for CBAA’s second scholarship, the John Henrik Clarke Scholarship. She served on the planning committee for CBAA’s Banquet and Awards Ceremonies in 1999 and in 2001. And for nearly a decade she coordinated CBAA’s annual Alvin Ailey Scholarship Fundraiser.

Over thirty some years, Ruby has served diligently and effectively—in many cases leading committees— for the Cornell Alumni Ambassador Admissions Network (CAAAN), the President’s Council of Cornell Women (PCCW), and Cornell MOSAIC, the organization founded in 2006 to increase diversity among alumni connecting with the university, a mission Ruby has been fulfilling for decades. She is also a lifetime member of the Cornell University Council and a Class Representative. Ruby has mentored many students and alumni, masterfully filled the alumni volunteer pipeline through her recruitment efforts, and earned a reputation as a true leader.

A few years ago, during a CBAA Reunion, someone sought to organize a group photo of all the organization’s past presidents. A cry went up demanding that Ruby get in the picture, although she has never been president. “Get over here!” “You have to!” “Come on Ruby!” Everyone recognized Ruby Saake was the common thread, the most consistent contributor over the life of the organization.

Written by Emily Hopkins, freelance writer in Ithaca, NY.

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