Skip to Main Content

Heart of a Giver

March 14, 2022 - 5 minute read

Jerry Ruud in Tie-Dye

Jerry Ruud ’93, a Ventura native, found an early hero in Kent Schlichtemeier, his teacher and coach in middle school at St. John’s Lutheran Church and School in Oxnard.

“Kent was my hero,” says Ruud. “I decided I was going to be a Lutheran high school math teacher and coach. I was going to be Kent Schlichtemeier.”

Coincidentally, Ruud enrolled at Christ College Irvine (now Concordia University Irvine) the first year “Coach” Schlichtemeier came to work there in 1988. But when Ruud first tried his hand at coaching a high school sports team during his senior year, he realized he simply didn’t like it. Stalled in his career plans, he found himself working at Dollar Rent-a-Car thinking, “This is depressing. I got a college degree, and I’m making $6 an hour?”

Ruud applied for a job in his father’s industry—plastic packaging, specifically plastic tubes and closures, the kind found on every item from ketchup bottles to cosmetics. He began selling plastic tubes used for hair gel, suntan lotion, all kinds of make-up, personal care products, toothpaste and so on to product manufacturers—and found he had a talent for it.

“Sometimes it boils down to price,” he says. “You can win or lose business depending on how good your service is, but a lot of times people buy from people they like. I think it’s very much a relationship business.”

His company sold plastic tubes to large consumer goods companies like Procter & Gamble, Unilever, L’Oréal and others.

Soon after graduating from college, he married a young lady, Denise, whom he had met while working at a pizzeria. With his promotion to management in the plastic packaging company, they moved to New Jersey. It was intended to be a brief move, but they have lived there ever since. Ruud advanced to become vice president of the personal care division for North America and the general manager for the tube division. His company was bought and sold by a series of private equity companies, then went public in 2012 as Berry Plastics, now Berry Global.

But the pace and the time away from home wore thin. “I had traveled all over,” Ruud says. “I was Marriott’s platinum elite for life and was gone about four or five nights a week traveling, 125 nights a year. I got tired of it.”

He left for a much smaller company just ten miles from his house and became executive vice president of sales. “I thought it was a better life choice,” he says.

Meanwhile, Jerry and Denise were raising two daughters, both now in their twenties, and connecting strongly with their local church. Born and raised Lutheran, Jerry says, “I’ve loved Jesus for as long as I can remember.”

They hosted many events and led small groups, nurturing younger people in the faith and helping plant new churches.

“I want to be an active disciple for Jesus,” Jerry says. “I love mentoring young guys. I text them and make myself available. Then when somebody’s going through something, they call you. One guy wanted help with his finances, to make sure he was doing it right. One has since gotten married, and we mentor him and his wife.”

The goal, he says, is Matthew 28: “Make disciples to make disciples to make disciples.”

Ruud is known for his love of tie-dye patterns.

He wore a tie-dye cummerbund and tie at his wedding. If a friend has a baby, Jerry and Denise give the child a tie-dye onesie.

He is also passionate about people and is “dogged about keeping in touch with friends,” he says. Six years ago he rallied former CUI classmates to attend homecoming together and got 30 people to come from Texas, Florida, Nebraska and elsewhere.

“I talk on the phone with people,” he says. “I keep in touch and follow up. I had a lot of fun at college—probably too much fun in some areas. But I have a lifetime’s worth of friends. I get to talk to someone from Concordia almost every week.”

He also enjoys supporting Eagles athletics and creating endowments in the names of people important to him from CUI. He brought friends together to create the Bill Spasoff Memorial fund, in memory of the beloved maintenance man at CUI who impacted the lives of many with his service and generosity.

“I still have, in my basement, my bed frame from Concordia because I needed a bed when I graduated,” Ruud says. “Bill said, ‘Come on up here. We have extra beds nobody’s using. Take one of these.’ He did that for many guys.”

Ruud and others also created an endowment honoring Schlichtemeier. “Bill is with the Lord, but Coach is still alive so I wanted to do something for him,” Ruud says. “When our company sold in 2018, I set up an endowment fund for Coach.

I sat down with Tim Jaeger and with Kent and told them what I wanted to do.”

Ruud’s parents, who are members of a Lutheran Church— Missouri Synod congregation, modeled good stewardship, a habit that he and Denise have adopted in their giving. “I enjoy giving money. It’s not a painful thing for me to write a check,” he says. “I enjoy giving to the school. It makes me feel good.”

Living within their means has enabled them to bless others more. “We never expanded our lifestyle when we made more money,” he says. “That phrase, ‘Trying to keep up with the Joneses,’ can really get you in trouble.”

These days, Ruud’s main passion is walking more closely with Jesus and with other believers, and deepening his knowledge of the Bible.

“I love to go to church. I love to be fed,” he says. “I want to have better Bible knowledge. For three years I read the Bible in a year. Last year, I recruited five guys to do it with me. We’re on a text message chat. We read through the Old Testament once and the New Testament twice, and the Psalms and Proverbs twice.”

When he feels it’s time, Ruud challenges other men to start leading their own Bible study groups. Several of the guys in his present Bible studies are CCI/CUI graduates. “We have great discussions,” Ruud says. “It’s awesome.”

He also encourages others to create endowment funds in the name of someone meaningful to them.

“As you get older, you want to have more of a legacy,” Jerry says. “An endowment fund is a great opportunity to do that. You can be creative, and if you have like minded friends then you don’t have to do it by yourself. It’s like reading the Bible together. Is there any better way to do it?”

Back to top