Basking Ridge Resident Is First Woman Board Chairman at Stevens
Virginia P. Ruesterholz retired last year from Verizon's Basking Ridge location.
Basking Ridge resident Virginia P. Ruesterholz, a longtime executive at Verizon and a 1983 graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology, has been elected chairman of the Board of Trustees of her alma mater in Hoboken.
Ruesterholz will be the first woman to hold the position of board chairman at the 143-year old institution. Her term will begin in May, and her appointment was announced on Thursday by Stevens.
Ruesterholz, who retired last year from a position of executive vice president of Communications based at Verizon's Basking Ridge location, is a lifelong New Jersey resident and 1983 graduate of Stevens. She has served on the board since 2007 and currently is vice chair.
“Now more than ever, the world is calling on innovators and entrepreneurs to address society’s most pressing challenges and drive economic growth," Ruesterholz said. "This is Stevens’ particular forte. I plan to continue the direction of the current board and Chairman [Lawrence] Babbio, working closely with President [Nariman] Farvardin, to expand Stevens’ already significant footprint and impact regionally, nationally and globally,” Ruesterholz said.
Ruesterholz, a chemical engineering major while an undergraduate at Stevens, holds an M.S. in telecommunications management from Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute and an honorary doctorate of engineering from Stevens (2008), according to the Stevens announcement.
Ruesterholz's contributions to Stevens over the decades have included serving as chair of the advisory board of the School of Systems and Enterprises; co-chair, with her spouse, Kevin, of the Edwin A. Stevens Society, where she led the dynamic membership growth of this leadership society for annual giving to Stevens; and championing an initiative which led to the Verizon Foundation’s sponsorship of a grant to launch Stevens’ K-12 engineering education initiative.
With her spouse, she has also established a scholarship fund for Stevens students in the field of engineering management.
"Engineering and technology fields, now more than ever, are vital to our country's economic growth and vitality, and provide limitless career opportunities," Ruesterholz added on Friday. "Unfortunately, our workforce still only attracts about four percent of the population to the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) fields, and there is a disproportionately small percentage of women in the STEM workforce."
'Every industry is a technology industry'
Ruesterholz said that she particularly proud that Stevens is leading the charge in attracting women into engineering and technology studies, but although much progress has been made, "We still have much work to do. After all, in today's society, every industry is a technology industry, and we need the best talent from all segments of the population."
"Virginia has already had an immeasurable impact on the Stevens community," President Farvardin said in the announcement. "A role as Chairman of the Stevens Board of Trustees is a natural progression given Virginia’s stellar track record of enterprise management and her unwavering commitment to this university. She is simply the right person for this important position to guide the continued success of Stevens.”
Ruesterholz assumes the chairmanship at a time when Stevens is accelerating efforts to address the historic gender gap in science, math and engineering, the announcement said. The university’s 10-year strategic plan lists as an objective an increase in student diversity, including raising the percentage of women in its undergraduate population to at least 40 percent by 2022.
The fall 2012 incoming class was 31 percent female, well above the national average, and a seven-point increase over just a year prior, the Stevens announcement said. According to the American Society of Engineering Education, Stevens is fifth in the nation in the percentage of engineering doctoral degrees awarded to women, at 34 percent.
Ruesterholz had a nearly 30-year career at Verizon before retiring in 2012. She began her career as a manager in one of the company’s predecessors and rose to executive vice president and president of Verizon Services Operations, a global business group that operates Verizon's wireline network as well as the finance operations, real estate, and supply chain services that support all Verizon companies. In her prior assignment, she served as president of Verizon Telecom, where she led the rollout of Verizon’s high speed fiber optic technology nationwide.
In Verizon's 2012 biography of Ruesterholz, she was listed as executive vice president of Verizon Communications, responsible for overseeing key strategic initiatives.
Before assuming those duties on Jan. 1, 2012, she had served as president of the former Verizon Services Operations (VSO), a global shared-services business group that operated Verizon’s wireline network as well as the finance operations, real estate and supply chain services that support all Verizon companies, according to Verizon.
Prior to heading the VSO, Ruesterholz served as president of Verizon Telecom, where she was responsible for sales, customer service, operations and IT for the consumer, general business and domestic wholesale markets, her Verizon biography said.
As chairman of the board at Stevens, Ruesterholz will succeed Babbio, former vice chairman and president of Verizon, whose term limit as Board chair ends in May after having served as Chairman of the Board since October 1997,
“I have worked closely with Virginia at Verizon and as a Trustee at Stevens and am delighted that she has accepted this responsibility,” Babbio said. “I wholeheartedly endorse her assuming this important role as Chairman of the Stevens Board of Trustees. Virginia’s intellect, leadership, business acumen, and her deep affection for Stevens combine to ensure that the university will continue its ascent in the next decade to meet and exceed the goals of the Strategic Plan.”
Verizon colleague and Stevens alumna Annmarie Rizzo added, “I cannot think of a more deserving person than Virginia to be appointed as Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Stevens. Her competence and vision will surely propel Stevens to new heights. I have known Virginia for many years and am thrilled for her. Stevens will thrive under her leadership!”
Stevens Institute of Technology, "The Innovation University," is a private research university located in Hoboken. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, "student-centric, entrepreneurial environment" to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges.
Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact, the announcement said.