From the Department Head: Fall 2018

As I’ve said many times, I love coming to work, every day, in a building named after Vernon Ruttan.  He left an enduring legacy in the field of agricultural economics, and inspired me and many others through his curiosity, work ethic, and kindness.  I thought it fitting to have a way to convey something of his life and legacy to those who visit us in our building, Ruttan Hall.  I asked Lore Ruttan, Vernon and Marilyn’s daughter, if she’d be interested in creating an art piece in his memory.   She writes: 

Frances and I have many connections. Of course the most obvious is that she is now Head of the department that my Dad was so closely associated with for most of his professional career. Her Ph.D. supervisor was also on my Ph.D. committee. (I have a Ph.D. in human ecology from UC Davis and taught Environmental Studies at Emory University before I left to pursue a career in science illustration.) As so many Minnesotans do, we also have connections between spouses, children and summer camps. So, I was really delighted when she asked about commissioning me to create an illustration commemorating my Dad's life and work. 

My first thought when she asked me was of a wood carving showing a water buffalo pulling a plow that we have at our cabin. My Dad loved water buffalo, or caribao as we called them in the Philippines. Apparently, he really wanted to have one of his own! From that initial visual response, I came up with the idea of illustrating the theory of induced innovation with a face-off of sorts between a caribao-drawn plow and a tractor. I've surrounded this main image with lots of smaller images referencing other aspects of his work, as well as things he loved in his personal life, e.g. boyhood fishing for brook trout, peaches he ran away from home to get, and of course blueberries we harvested every year at our cabin in Northern Minnesota. I hope I'm able to pull all these things together as harmoniously as he pulled together the disparate elements of his life. 

We will unveil Lore’s drawing at the Outstanding Alumni Award event on October 5.