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Meet Emily Ruther - Class of 1990

Emily Ruther graduated from Fort Madison High School in 1990. During high school, she was involved in tennis, cheerleading, and creative writing. Emily Ruther now works as a judge for the state of Iowa.

Change of Plans

Emily did not consider law school until after graduating from FMHS. “In high school I dreamed of working for Greenpeace in some capacity – maybe as a writer or spokesperson.  I always knew I would go to college, but I would have never ever considered the idea of getting a doctorate degree.  That changed drastically when I got to college.  After I became pregnant with my oldest son, Alex during my 3rd year of college, I started thinking about law school.  I dove head-first into school after that,” said Ruther.

Journey to Becoming a Judge

“I was a Public Speaking major in the College of Communications in undergrad at UNI. I then went to law school at the University of Tulsa in Oklahoma. Law school is a 3 year program, then you study for the bar exam in whichever state you choose to practice. Then you take the bar, and hopefully pass the first time. I passed and immediately started working as a general practice attorney in my dad’s law firm in Fort Madison. I was a lawyer for 7 years before being selected to become a Judge. I have been on the bench for 14 years,” said Ruther.

“I believe in justice and equality under the law. I believe in giving a voice to those who aren’t able to be heard. I have always been an advocate – for our environment, for animals, for women, for love, for equality, for those who are discriminated against. I knew that the law in this country stood on my side, because we believe EVERYONE is entitled to a fair and impartial trial by judge or jury. The United States is the only nation in the world to guarantee trial by jury in both criminal and civil cases. Our law requires that people are innocent until proven guilty. That if we are wronged, we have a fair path for a remedy. I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” said Ruther.

Influenced by FMHS

“Mrs. Fahey, my speech teacher and Ms. Moore, my writing teacher.  Both were not only my favorite teachers, but most influential.  They pushed me, and I needed that.  It turns out I had a lot to say, and they clearly saw that,” said Ruther.

“I was actually pretty shy growing up, so putting myself out there as a cheerleader really helped crack open my shell a bit. High school is FULL of uncomfortable, embarrassing situations and I needed those things to thicken my skin. I did a lot in HS that put me out of my comfort zone, including transferring from Catholic school to FMHS halfway through my junior year. Such a great decision! And taking up speech, which I HATED, but now it’s essentially what I do for a living,” said Ruther.

Favorite FMHS Memory

“My favorite FMHS memories center around my girlfriends.  We just had a 20 year girls-only reunion a couple of weeks ago, where those of us who have daughters brought them too,” said Ruther.

In addition, Emily Ruther likes to spend time cooking for her family, photography, hiking, traveling, watching Survivor, and participating in “CrossFit.”

Advice for Current FMHS Students

“Read. Don’t just listen to books and podcasts, read. If you don’t love it, read more until you do. Write on paper sometimes. You will have to do that occasionally in the business world and you don’t want to have the penmanship of a 7 year old. Turn off spell check so that you learn to spell,” said Ruther.

Proudest Accomplishments

I have 2 sons that are good, kind men. They are my proudest achievement.  Second to that, I’ve had moments throughout my life, both personally and professionally, where I have been given an opportunity to literally change someone’s life, maybe even save someone’s life. The times I acted on my gut and jumped in to help another – that is what life is all about. Don’t EVER be afraid to reach out your hand, even if 9 times out of 10 it’s slapped away – the one time they grab it, you will never forget it,” said Ruther.

Emily’s goals for the future are inspiring. “I want to continue to help others in any way I can. I am fortunate I get to do that every day as a Judge. I want to retire someday with my husband and take our future grandchildren hiking in the mountains,” said Ruther.

Life Motto

“I have many mottos that are meaningful to me.  You’ve got to give it away to keep it (in other words, be generous!!!)  And Love is Love,” said Ruther.

What Does FMCSD’s “Come Learn and Grow” Mean to You?

“I think we show up to learn and grow every day of our life.  I am never done learning,” said Emily Ruther.

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