Ron and Joanna Garutti, longtime donors to Rutgers, say it’s time for everyone to throw their support behind Rutgers Athletics.
It was February 3, 2016—National Signing Day for college football recruits—and Ron and Joanna Garutti had just met Rutgers’ promising new head football coach, Chris Ash, at a donor event in the Hale Center at High Point Solutions Stadium. The Garuttis had already gotten to know athletic director Patrick Hobbs, and they were impressed with his clear vision for first-class facilities as the foundation for winning championships in the Big Ten. Everything was in place: the right conference, the right leadership, and the right plan.
As head strength coach Kenny Parker showed them the football program design plans for an upgraded strength and conditioning center, the Garuttis knew, without a word to each other, that they had to make the project happen. “We’re looking at each other like, ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Joanna says, recalling how quickly and decisively their commitment to fund the facility unfolded. Just six months later, the Ron and Joanna Garutti Strength and Conditioning Center opened in the Hale Center, supporting more than 350 student-athletes from 10 teams.
For the Garuttis, there is no time like the present, and Rutgers is the only team that has ever mattered. As an undergraduate in the 1960s, Ron RC’67 would sit in a half-empty, freezing-cold Rutgers Stadium, cheering on his Scarlet Knights, while most of his peers were watching national championship contenders play on television.
Decades later, when he first started dating Joanna, he couldn’t wait to take her to a Rutgers football game. Since that time, she has shared his scarlet devotion, and the couple’s passion for Rutgers is so infectious that two of their three children have graduated from Rutgers.
As longtime donors to Rutgers’ athletic and academic programs, the Garuttis understand that these early years in the Big Ten, when Rutgers is establishing its reputation on the national stage, are pivotal. Rutgers’ already strong competitors are only speeding up their efforts to provide top facilities for their players, and Ron emphasizes that raising support for the university’s student-athletes cannot wait. “We are asking our student-athletes to compete at the highest level,” he says. “We have to position them to be successful.”
That success requires a steep increase in private support, and the Garuttis asked themselves if they could give more than they were already giving. “The answer was, ‘Yes, if we reach,’ ” Ron says, and so they did. The Garuttis consider their roles as philanthropic ambassadors to be equally important. Once, while watching a Rutgers football practice, Ron struck up a conversation with another fan. He pointed out the recipient of the Garuttis’ endowed football scholarship and spoke about the impact of private support. Two days later, Ron learned, the man committed to creating his own endowed athletic scholarship. “Ron is the biggest advocate,” Joanna says. “He’s always encouraging people to support Rutgers.”
Last August, when the Garuttis received the 1869 Legacy Award, honoring their lifetime impact on Rutgers Athletics, Ron quoted a line from Eugène Ionesco’s play Exit the King: “We haven’t the time to take our time.” Then he added, “The clock is ticking. All Rutgers people have to do their part now to make our vision a reality.” •
Read Ron’s remarks from the 1869 Legacy Award ceremony at support.rutgers.edu/Garutti.