By Alanna Conn
How Ray Ruby ’05 Has Made a Career of It
Perhaps the most valuable resource provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)—a federal agency that provides economic statistics—is its occupation finder. An online database of 575 careers, the BLS occupation finder allows job seekers to sort potential careers by various criteria, including median pay, projected growth, and level of education required. Want a job with an average salary of at least $75,000 and a projected growth rate of 30 percent? Consider a career as a nurse practitioner, financial advisor, or research analyst. Of the 427,303 annual visitors to the occupation finder, Ray Ruby ’05 was not one of them. That’s because Ruby chose his career path at age 13, and he didn’t particularly care about earning potential or job security when he did. In fact, he had only one criteria in mind: to make lives better. That criterion has always remained the same, even if the jobs haven’t.
As a ninth-grader, Ruby was in a situation involving the police in his hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. He watched the responding officer, a middle-aged man with a crew cut and a starched blue uniform, and decided in those few moments that he, too, would one day become a cop.
“I was just so shocked,” said Ruby. “I was blown away. But I wasn’t blown away because this guy was so amazing—it was the exact opposite. He was so bad, and handled the situation so terribly, that I was like, ‘I want to grow up and be a police officer and not be him.’”
So that was exactly what he did. It is exceptional for anyone—and especially exceptional for a teenager—to not only be willing, but to also possess the personal desire to devote a life’s work to the service of others. Ruby is nothing if not exceptional. After learning about a small, Catholic college in Maine during his senior year of high school—a college that offered views of Sebago Lake and a degree in criminal justice—he applied. Though his standardized test scores weren’t quite high enough to gain him admission, they were offset by the hundreds of hours of community service hours he had accumulated as a volunteer in the convalescent home where his mother worked as a nurse’s aide. He arrived on campus at Saint Joseph’s College in the fall of 2001, where he spent the next four years preparing for his future as a police officer. By 2005, he was an officer with the Portland Police Department, wasting no time in fulfilling the goals he’d set for himself when he was just 13 years old.
“I was impressed with his common sense, intelligence, and compassion,” says Westbrook Police Chief Janine Roberts, who was Ruby’s lieutenant in Portland. They worked most closely together when, two years into his tenure, he became the department’s first youth services officer.
“We were looking to do some community outreach,” says Ruby, “and to improve the relationships between the police and the community, specifically the youth. So I would create programs to have officers interact in uniform, out of uniform, on the ball field, in classrooms.”
The role introduced Ruby to another aspect of service—one where, according to him, he could make a difference in his community before problems existed, rather than after. It inspired him.
As a result, and much to the disappointment of the colleagues who voted him Officer of the Year in 2011, he left the force in 2012 to be unit director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Southern Maine in South Portland.
“When you’re reacting so much, you don’t get as much opportunity to be proactive,” says Ruby. “I wanted to experience being proactive a bit more. I wanted to be able to dive deep and work with people and be there every day, and help every day. I felt like I could do more.”
As before, the impetus behind his decision was to give back, although he’s quick to say it’s not because he’s a wholly selfless person.
“Service is addicting,” says Ruby. “It gives you a good feeling. It’s rewarding. When someone says, ‘I don’t know what I would have done without you,’ it lights a fire under you.”
As unit director at the South Portland Boys and Girls Clubhouse, Ruby worked with kids from ages 6 to 18, providing them with a positive environment to go after school. But when he and his wife, Danielle, made plans to start a family, he knew he needed a job with more father-friendly hours that would still allow him to make a difference in his community. In March of 2016, he became the house manager for the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Maine in Portland—a home-away-from-home for the families of children with serious illnesses that, along with its sister house in Bangor, served 643 families throughout 2015. Ruby manages House operations, from overseeing hundreds of volunteers and developing budgets to hunting down Hulk action figures and spending time with families.
“When I was a police officer, I’d get these ‘a-ha’ moments where I’d think, ‘I’m making a difference,’ about once a week, maybe once a month,” says Ruby. “Now it probably happens six, seven times a day. Where I just shake my head and think, ‘Wow, this organization is special. What’s being done here is so special.’”
The people of the House are special, too: the families, the volunteers, the full- and part-time staff—including, of course, Ruby. Since he was a child, he has always had the drive to give back. He is a living embodiment of the values of Mercy, as his academic advisor at Saint Joseph’s, Sister Michele Aronica, can attest.
“When I first met him, he had a light in his eyes and I knew he was right,” says Sister Michele. “He operates out of a real sense of community and a commitment to help.”
Almost every endeavor Ruby undertakes is for the benefit of others. When he’s not at the Ronald McDonald House, he’s volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters, or working with families in Honduras, or building homes in New Orleans, or running for Portland City Council, or coaching youth basketball, or serving on the board of the Summit Project, an organization that honors fallen Maine service members. Come winter, when he and Danielle welcome their first daughter, he’ll teach her the same value system that’s defined his life—that there is nothing more precious than to give away your time, than to share your love.
“Ray gives himself on a daily basis, even when he’s not consciously aware that he’s doing it,” says Chief Roberts.
“He is one of the most giving, generous, kind, and sincere leaders I know,” says David Cote, founder of the Summit Project.
“He strives to be the best he can be, as a person and a professional,” says Sister Michele.
It’s no wonder Ruby never needed to use the BLS occupation finder, because his life is not measured in paychecks or growth prediction charts. It is measured in the good he’s done.
“Hopefully when I’m gone someday, I’ll have made a small difference,” says Ruby. “Muhammad Ali has this incredible quote—‘Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.’ I truly believe that.”