David Ruppert '21

By Susan Shelly

The Saint Ignatius Award, established by Col. Deborah Q. Geiger '83, is presented annually to a graduating student veteran who exemplifies selfless service, leadership, compassion, strong moral courage and commitment to excellence.

According to Bret Krotee, the Veterans Center coordinator at Alvernia University, David Ruppert '21 was an apt recipient of the 2021 award.

“David exemplifies those qualities more than any student I've met here,” Krotee said.

A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Ruppert faced some challenges while transitioning from his military career to university life.

“College sometimes doesn't come naturally to veterans,” he reflected. “We all think we're too old and that school is behind us.”

While getting used to classes and campus life, Ruppert drew on his military experience and applied the lessons he'd learned from challenges faced while in service. In time, he found a community at Alvernia, supported by fellow veterans, faculty, staff members and others.

“The Alvernia community is very understanding and helpful, and the Veterans Center was a great source of support,” Ruppert said. “It made it very easy to ease into the campus.”

Ruppert initially enrolled in Alvernia's Criminal Justice program but soon realized his interests and curiosity exceeded the confines of one major.

“I asked myself why I should limit my experience to just one degree when I had chances to explore other majors, too,” Ruppert said.

His need to expand his horizons mirrored his military experience, where he started as a supply clerk and, with support from superiors, worked his way up to corporal and led a security convoy. Just as he did while in the Marines, once Ruppert had found his footing at Alvernia, he reached out to support and inspire others. He championed the Veterans Center, encouraging other veterans to take advantage of services and supports it offered and mentoring younger veterans. He remembered counseling a female veteran who was experiencing relationship problems and on the verge of dropping out of school.

“I assured her the Alvernia community cares about veterans and told her about the resources we had for her,” Ruppert said. “I was able to help her see the light at the end of the tunnel, and she stayed and finished her education.”

Ruppert's inclination to help others comes naturally and allows him to return the kindness and support he's gotten from others.

He credits accommodating faculty members who made time to help him individually, as well as Dr. Joseph Cicala, Alvernia's former vice president for university life and dean of students.

“He took me on a tour of campus, and we talked about my service,” Ruppert recalled. “He's pretty much the one who sold me on Alvernia.”

Krotee also serves as an advocate for Ruppert and other veterans, exemplifying Alvernia's commitment to its designation as a Yellow Ribbon School and Military Friendly university.

“You could see how much he cared about us vets,” Ruppert said. “If there were any problems, he'd take care of them.”

On commencement day in May 2021, Ruppert graduated magna cum laude with degrees in criminal justice, finance and business management. He also was awarded a minor in history. After completing an internship during his senior year with Tompkins Financial, parent company of Tompkins VIST Bank, Ruppert was kept on in a temporary position and later accepted a full-time job in Tompkins's fraud department.

“I'd say this right here is an Alvernia success story,” he said. “I started as an intern and ended up with a full-time job. Alvernia helped me to believe I'll be able to achieve good things and make the changes I want to see in the world.”