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Laurel Receives a $4.6 Million Legacy Gift from Barbara Peterson Ruhlman ’50

Gift will support the creation of The Ruhlman Family Center for Environmental Learning which will provide labs, classrooms and common areas designed for use by students in all grades at the Butler Campus, and will also support renovations at the Lyman Campus.
Head of School Ann V. Klotz announced today that Laurel School received a $4.6 million legacy gift from Barbara Peterson Ruhlman. Mrs. Ruhlman graduated from Laurel School in 1950 and remained a steadfast supporter and loyal alumna until she passed away on January 2, 2022, in Cleveland.

A dedicated mother, volunteer and philanthropist, Mrs. Ruhlman served Laurel in many capacities, including as a member of the Board of Trustees for 20 years, chairing the Development Committee and serving on the Executive Committee and the Building and Grounds Committee. Mrs. Ruhlman also was an Honorary Chair of Laurel’s 125th Anniversary Celebration. She was presented with Laurel’s Distinguished Alumna Award in 2012 and was named Trustee Emerita in 2010.

Apart from her exceptional board service, Mrs. Ruhlman was committed to ensuring that Laurel School preserved its historic campus. In her lifetime, she supported several key capital projects, including building renovations and outdoor improvements. Laurel’s Alumnae Suite and the second floor of the Upper School Library are both named in her honor.

Her estate gift will support Laurel School’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, Laurel is Where She Begins. Three million dollars will be allocated to Laurel’s Butler Campus in Geauga County to support the creation of The Ruhlman Family Center for Environmental Learning, which will add a multi-use classroom, laboratory and gathering place at Butler. Additional funds supported renovations at Laurel’s Lyman Campus in Shaker Heights that took place this past summer. Future plans include a memorial garden on the Lyman Campus.

“My mother had a deep love for Laurel School that transcended her years as a student,” said her son, Rob Ruhlman. “We are pleased that our family is able to support Laurel School and its work on both the Butler and Lyman Campuses. We were raised with a deep appreciation for both education and for the natural world, so these projects are a terrific fit.”

The Ruhlman family includes three generations of students: her great-granddaughter is a current Third Grade student, her youngest great-grandson began the Early Learners program this fall and another great-grandson is a graduate of the Early Childhood program.

“The Ruhlman family has been at the heart center of Laurel School for nearly 75 years,” said Klotz. “Barbara's deep commitment to Laurel has been shown for decades—from her support of our renovation projects to her creation of our very first endowed Chair at Butler. We miss her terribly and are humbled by this final, special gift to Laurel School.”

Aside from her volunteer work with Laurel, Mrs. Ruhlman volunteered at University Hospitals for nearly eight decades, culminating in her appointment as a Lifetime Trustee. She was an active community volunteer and enjoyed sailing and spending time with family. Mrs. Ruhlman was a 1954 graduate of Wellesley College.
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