Ruth Krusemark to Retire After 43 Years of Beautiful Music | Benedictine College

Farewell, Maestro
Ruth Krusemark to Retire After 43 Years of Beautiful Music

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Dr. Ruth Krusemark sits in front of a Steinway piano

Any professor who spends 43 years with one institution is entitled a great degree of celebration and congratulations. That can never be more true than when that particular professor oversaw a department that experienced a 1,700% growth during her tenure. That and so much more is the legacy of Ruth Krusemark, DMA ’73.

After countless hours spent in classrooms and in rehearsals, leading numerous ensembles in performances for the Holy Father in Rome, and co-composing the Benedictine College Alma Mater, O Lord of Every Blessing, with Fr. Andrew Hofer, OP ’94 and Stacy Niedbalski Cope ’02, Ruth retired from the college in July 2019.

Ruth Krusemark, Kathie Dalzell, and Kingsley Leggs, 2019 Discovery DayNotes from students to Dr. Ruth Krusemark

The roots of Atchison and Benedictine College run deep in Ruth. A lifelong resident, Ruth still lives in the very Atchison house her great-grandfather built in 1894, which has stayed in her family for its entire existence. Ruth’s father, Lt.Col. Robert F. Krusemark, Sr., was a 1936 graduate of St. Benedict’s College.

After graduating from Benedictine in 1973, Ruth got her master’s degree from the University of Kansas (where she also earned her Doctor of Musical Arts degree) and began teaching part-time at her alma mater in 1976. By 1980, Father Gerard Senecal, OSB ’51, then president of the college, told her he would make her a full-time faculty member if she could recruit enough students to pay her salary.

“At the time we had two music majors,” said Ruth. “Today we have 35, but then, I took on lessons for 115 elementary school students on campus to justify the position.”

Ruth began teaching organ and piano, primarily. Paul Mabrey, then the chair of the music department, convinced Ruth that she should also begin directing choirs, which, along with performing accompaniment on piano, became one of the things she enjoyed most.

Dr. Ruth Krusemark, 1995Ruth Krusemark on Steinway delivery day with Harry Reed, manager, Schmitt Music

“We had one choir with about 20 students,” said Ruth. “And we had the chamber singers with about a dozen. Today we’ve got over 400 students in ensembles.”

Ruth took over as department chair in the mid-1980s, which, in some ways, was a relief, because it allowed her to have control over the courses she taught — typically 19-21 hours a semester in those days. In time, and with the addition of more qualified colleagues, Ruth became increasingly able to concentrate on the areas she enjoyed the most, while dealing with the day-to-day activities of running a department (including managing the distribution of $120,000 in scholarships each year).

The administrative load got a lot easier to bear in 2006, when Lois Niemann joined the department as Ruth’s assistant.

“She’s the most highly organized and efficient person I’ve ever met,” said Ruth. “I simply couldn’t do what I do without Lois. The word ‘assistant’ doesn’t do justice to what she’s meant to me.”

Ruth also feels fortunate to have been able to collaborate for 25 years on joint projects with her brother, William Krusemark, DMA, chair of the music department at the University of St. Mary who is also retiring this year.

In 2013, Ruth was named the first Mother Evangelista Kremmeter Endowed Professor of Traditions and Values. In that capacity, Ruth has an annual budget for special projects to enrich the artistic life of the campus. This past year she used the endowment to sponsor the visit and performance of Broadway star Kingsley Leggs ’83, whom Ruth accompanied on the piano, along with alumna and former student, Kathie Weishar Dalzell ’80.

Ruth and the Dalzells at the Steinway factory with Sally Coveleskie, National Director of Institutional Sales at Steinway & Sons in New York CityRuth directing the Chamber Singers in the Abbey Church, 2012

It was a gift from Kathie and her husband, Rick, in 2015 that replaced all campus pianos with new Steinway & Sons models, making Benedictine one of a select few All-Steinway schools in the nation.

Which brings us to Ruth’s biggest hope for the future of the Benedictine College music department—a new fine arts building that would bring all the arts together in one dedicated space.

“I told him it hasn't been a sacrifice. This has been a privilege.”- Ruth Krusemark

“We really need a building fit to house all those beautiful Steinways,” Ruth said with a smile. “Really, the arts do so much for enrollment and reputation. All of our arts programs have been so successful, we’ve really outgrown our current facilities. A new building would really attract students and make Benedictine a destination for concerts, recitals, performing arts and the like.”

Ruth has no plans to slow down completely. She will be keeping her job as organist for the First Christian Church of Atchison, a position she’s held since she was still in high school. Her two children, Angela Pickman ’01 and Jeffrey Pickman, both live in the Kansas City area, and Ruth plans to reserve one day a week for each of her three grandchildren.

In a moment of reflection, Ruth recalls a conversation with Benedictine College board chair, Jack Newman ’70.

“Jack said, ‘Thank you for the sacrifice you made to teach at Benedictine,’” said Ruth. “I told him it hasn’t been a sacrifice. This has been a privilege. Our students are extraordinary. Their belief in the mission, their kindness, their own personal sacrifice — those are the things I see in our students. It has truly been a privilege.”

The college considers it a privilege to have been blessed with Ruth’s years of service.