If ever UC spawned a match made in heaven, a pairing of true soul mates, it took place in 1946, the day Eugene Ruehlmann met Virginia Juergens. A fraternity brother arranged a blind date for his friend, Gene, a former Marine, political science major, Phi Beta Kappa member and member of UC’s winning Sun Bowl football team, and Virginia, an honors student in the School of Education, athlete, majorette and band sponsor who had just been awarded the prestigious C-Ring, given each year to one outstanding graduating woman. If it wasn’t love at first sight, it certainly was at second. Arriving to pick up Virginia for their second outing together, UC’s prom, Gene was smitten. “She looked like Cinderella,” he says. “Cupid shot an arrow right through my heart. I never dated anyone but her from then on.” He remembers his wife-to-be wearing the same beautiful dress she said she wore to her high school graduation; not out of the ordinary for someone from a working-class family who relied on scholarships to get through undergraduate and graduate school. Thus, a seed was planted that would germinate several decades later.So began a lifelong love affair resulting in a 61-year marriage, eight children, 25 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren. Being one of 10 children, a large family was second nature to Gene.
In the intervening decades, Virginia and Gene truly answered the call to service for their community, UC, and the School of Education. While Gene attended Harvard Law School in the latter 1940s, Virginia was a highly lauded and beloved instructor at nearby Wellesley College. They moved back to Cincinnati in 1950 with their first-born child, named after her mother and affectionately referred to as “Ginny.” Gene practiced law and later went into politics, his longtime ambition, becoming mayor of Cincinnati in 1967. Virginia went on to become the first female president of Catholic Social Services, worked tirelessly on behalf of many local charities, and served as administrator of the Helen Steiner Rice Foundation, which awards grants to charities that assist the needy and the elderly. She was named a “Woman of the Year” by the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1978.
“She was such a brilliant conversationalist; she could make friends with anyone and remember everything,” says Gene. “She had a tremendous ability to work with people and had a conversational talent few people can match, which is why she was loved by everyone. She made people feel important. She was outstanding in everything she did.”
After Virginia’s passing in 2008, Gene decided to honor his beloved wife’s memory by creating a scholarship for needy students, the only way Virginia was able to get through college decades earlier. The Virginia and Eugene Ruehlmann Endowment Fund awards scholarships to education majors with demonstrated financial need. This past spring, Gene attended the scholarship award ceremony for the School of Education. Reminiscent of Virginia’s plight, Gene says, “It was very rewarding to see a young girl whose parents needed scholarships to get her through school.”
Truly remarkable lives intertwined for more than 60 years, but Gene leaves no doubt whom he feels deserves much of the credit. “Many of my accomplishments were inspired by her. My greatest blessing of all was having Virginia in my life."
"She looked like Cinderella. Cupid shot an arrow right through my heart."
She was named a "Woman of the Year" by the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1978.