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Jon K. Rust

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

Opinion

Tribute to Gary Rust, American entrepreneur

The following are remarks delivered at the dedication of the Rust Center for Media, Oct. 7, 2016.

I, too, would like to offer my thanks and congratulations to Southeast Missouri State University.

The Department of Mass Media has accomplished much in recent years, particularly under chairs Dr. Baldwin and now Dr. Hollerbach, having largely revamped its curriculum.

As the co-president of a media company that regularly hires journalists, I can say that the caliber of its graduates has never been higher. Congratulations to the faculty and administration on the great success they are having with this vital program. Now -- in aspects of experiential learning -- with the new Rust Center for Media, it is peerless in most of the country.

It is also my pleasure to thank the university for recognizing entrepreneur Gary Wayne Rust, our father, in naming this building.

Most of you here today already know Gary Rust as a man of high integrity, insatiable curiosity, oftentimes-irreverent wit, proud loyalty and undying commitment to the community. He is also a man driven by a passion for the truth, which is what led him into media in the first place and gave him strength and courage even when the business was barely profitable.

It will be 50 years ago this coming March when he bought a small weekly newspaper in Cape Girardeau County. At the time he had little money. And a large family -- a household of nine, soon to be 10 when Rex was born. And work was often a grind.

But throughout his work challenges, his passion for service and the truth sustained him, as did his incredible wife, our mother Wendy.

Today, the company he helped build crosses into nine states and includes 44 newspapers, dozens of magazines and web sites, 12 printing plants, and minority ownership of 17 radio stations. There are more than 800 employees who work for Rust Communications or its affiliates, where he continues to serve as Chairman of the Board, reporting to work most mornings before 7:30 a.m.

As you look around this room, you will see several photos of my dad. These images give a small glimpse into who he is.

Etched on the entry glass is an image of him on the steps of the Capitol. For several years he served as a legislator in Jefferson City, a public servant in the true sense of that word, where he developed a reputation for honesty, preparation, fairness and leadership.

When he resigned his seat because of challenges in business and the need to focus on it full time, he said:

"I have always been an advocate of the competitive, free-enterprise system and Friday it became apparent that a new competitive development affecting my business would require my full and undivided attention…."

"Will I miss being a state representative? I'm sure I will. I've made some great friends who I hate to leave…

"But it's now time to put my efforts, knowledge and influence to work where I feel it will do the most good. And that is in the field of informing the public."

There is also an image of him as a baseball player, bat upon his shoulder.

A heralded high school athlete, he received a full scholarship to play baseball and basketball in college. Sports served as lessons for him about the meritocratic values important to leadership and successful work, which he used as touchstones to teach all around him.

Finally, there is an image of him with his wife and young children walking down the steps of church. His spiritual faith, too, has been a vital guide each step of the way, and I can remember having conversations with him about faith and its power from when I was very young.

My brothers and sisters and I are proud of our mother and father and what they have achieved. We are in awe of who they are and how they treat other people. Both are heroes to us: wise, kind, principled, generous and loving. And we're proud that they will be associated with media innovation, student learning and this great university long into the future.

Thank you Dad for your leadership. For your unflinching integrity. For your examples of love and empathy and philanthropy.

Thank you for your passion.

We're proud of you. And we love you.

Jon K. Rust is publisher of the Southeast Missourian and co-president of Rust Communications.

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