Donor Story

Jack Rust

Businessman Known for Generosity

By Matt Andazola / Journal Staff Writer on Tue, Jul 10, 2012

jack-rustJohn Laurence “Jack” Rust was a highly successful businessman, including his longtime ownership of a Caterpillar Tractor dealership in Albuquerque. But his biggest legacy was his generosity, which survives in the form of endowments, scholarship programs and a hospital in Rio Rancho that bears his name.

Rust died Sunday in Phoenix. He was 87.

“He was such an honorable man,” said John Ackerman, former chief of PNM and retired Rust Professor of Business Ethics at the University of New Mexico. “He was a person of the utmost integrity and the courage to do the right thing.”

A West Point graduate, he held steadfast to that code of honor even decades later, said his daughter Julie Bowdich.

Ackerman said Rust was so trustworthy that the two would make business deals with verbal agreements instead of formal contracts.

Born in Bloomington, Ill., Rust graduated from high school there and enlisted in the Army in 1943, according to information provided by his family. He was appointed to West Point, where he earned a spot on the All-American lacrosse team for three years in a row.

Rust served in the 6th Armory Cavalry in Europe after the end of World War II and would remain in the U.S. Army Reserve until he retired as a colonel in 1985.

He came to New Mexico in 1960 to take over a Caterpillar Tractor dealership in Albuquerque. He led Rust Tractor Co. to 42 years of dominance in New Mexico and western Texas, and also owned several other businesses and properties around the state.

“He was a great manager and a great salesman,” said Doug Brown, dean of the UNM Anderson School of Management. “He was the rare combination of a very effective business person and a very genial and caring human being.”

He was very accomplished, Brown said, but if you wanted to know about his successes, “you had to pull them out of him one by one.”

The same goes for his many philanthropic activities.

He sponsored two professorships at UNM and was a founding member of the UNM Foundation despite not having gone to the school.

He also helped found the Albuquerque Community Foundation, to which he and his wife, Donna, contributed immensely, said Randy Royster, the foundation’s executive director.

“They were very humble in their approach to philanthropy,” Royster said. “They are not people whose first concern is having their name associated with their giving.”

The Rusts’ $10 million donation was the cornerstone of the new Presbyterian Healthcare Services hospital in Rio Rancho, which opened formally in October as the Rust Medical Center. They also donated $3 million to a program that helps Presbyterian employees attend nursing school.

“He was just a guy who wanted to lead through his own actions and his own generosity,” said Jim Hinton, Presbyterian’s chief executive. “His fingerprints are all over Presbyterian.”

It’s not only money, either — he served on the board of the UNM Foundation after helping create it, and spent 30 years on the board of Presbyterian Healthcare Systems. From 1981 to 1995, he was the Presbyterian board chairman.

“Putting his name on that hospital,” Hinton said, “is just one of those things that’s just right.”

He was genial, Brown remembered, always genuinely interested in what was going on in other people’s lives.

“With Dad it’s all about people,” Bowdich said. “He had the best sense of humor. A lot of times it was dry and quiet, but he could pick up the situation and sum it up in three or four words and have you absolutely convulsed.”

He loved fly-fishing, travel and combining the two — he’s fished in places as far-flung as Mongolia and Scandinavia. He read many books, but had an affinity for Civil War history.

He loved spending time with his grandkids, who fascinated him, Bowdich said. He was also an avid documentarian, bringing his camera everywhere.

“One of the things you grew up with, without him explaining it,” Bowdich said, “was that you work hard, you play hard, you have a great time along the way, and you give back.”

Services have yet to be announced.

Copyright: The Albuquerque Journal, Mountain View Telegraph. Reprinted with permission. Permission does not imply endorsement.

— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal