In memoriam: Fernando Ruiz, associate professor emeritus of architecture
July 24, 2017
Fernando Ruiz, associate professor emeritus of architecture in the Virginia Tech College of Architecture and Urban Studies, died on July 10 in Greenville, South Carolina, at the age of 86.
“Fernando was a consummate, dedicated, and comprehensive teacher,” said Jack Davis, Reynolds Metals Professor and dean of the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. “He imparted to his students a close relationship between architecture and its site and climate. Just as China was opening to the West, Fernando went to western China to teach and establish one of the first exchange programs. The college and university have benefited greatly from his many contributions.”
Ruiz was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala, in 1931. He received a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala in 1963. As a result of his academic achievements, he was among the first recipients of the Alliance for Progress scholarships for Latin American students commissioned by President John F. Kennedy. With this award, he continued his studies at Virginia Tech, where he received a bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1967.
In 1968, he earned a master of science in architecture from MIT. Upon completing his studies, he returned to Guatemala to work in private practice. After two years, he returned to the U.S. and worked for Smithey & Boynton, Architects & Engineers, in Roanoke.
Ruiz stayed in contact with his former professors, who invited him to join the faculty at Virginia Tech in 1972. While at Virginia Tech, he made exceptional contributions to the teaching mission of the architecture design laboratories, inspiring generations of students to explore holistic and integrated approaches to understanding and solving complex architectural problems. He promoted the intellectual growth of his students by deepening their understanding of interrelations between architecture and engineering, philosophy, history, psychology, visual arts, photography, and art.
In recognition of his dedication and passion for teaching, he received the Award for Excellence in Teaching (1975, 1979, 1981), was elected to the Academy of Teaching Excellence (1980), and received the prestigious William E. Wine Award for Excellence in Teaching (1981).
As one colleague attested in Ruiz’s Wine Award recommendations: “Fernando dedicated himself to the task of teaching architecture. He proved his excellence to both student and faculty colleagues each year. Alumni now practicing architecture continually attest to the lasting impact this man had on their lives as architects.”
Another noted: “To excel in the field of architecture, one must have a balanced combination of a well-developed philosophy, inherent ability to design, an aggressive and conscientious nature, as well as possess the knowledge of current technologies and events. Fernando possessed all of these.”
Ruiz traveled extensively, collecting visual information and experiencing significant works of architecture in the U.S., Central America, Puerto Rico, Europe, and the People’s Republic of China. His expansive personal photography collection was an acclaimed visual resource for his lectures.
During his tenure, Ruiz served as a visiting faculty member at the Department of Architecture at Zhengzhou Institute of Technology, Henan Province, People’s Republic of China.
After 30 years of teaching, Ruiz retired in 2002. The Board of Visitors recognized him for his service to the university with the title of Associate Professor Emeritus of Architecture.
Ruiz was a lifelong music lover, nature lover, and avid reader. After retirement, he continued to take university-led courses in numerous arts and sciences disciplines. He often described himself as a “perpetual student.” Since 2009, he and his wife have lived close to family in Greenville, South Carolina.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Maria Luisa, his daughters Luisamaria Ruiz Carlile (Lance); Karina Ruiz Thompson (Bart); Olga Ruiz Whaley (Steve); Sylvia Ruiz Weber (Joe); and Virginia Ruiz (Alan). Also surviving are 12 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
The family is holding a private celebration of his life. In lieu of flowers, the family welcomes donations in memory of Fernando Ruiz to the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. Please make checks payable to the Virginia Tech Foundation Inc. In the memo line, write "In Memory of Fernando Ruiz.” Send to: Virginia Tech Office of Gift Accounting University Gateway Center (0336) 902 Prices Fork Road Blacksburg, VA 24061.
Donations may also be made via the Virginia Tech online giving page. At the very bottom of the page, please choose "Honorary/Memorial Gifts" and add Fernando Ruiz’s name: https://webapps.es.vt.edu/givingto/gift.