Grosse Point, MI -- September 8, 2014. Frederick Gale Ruffner, Jr., whose legendary directories and literary resources transformed library reference service around the world, died August 12, 2014 in Detroit, MI. He was 88.
Mr. Ruffner and his wife Mary founded Gale Research Co., one of the world's largest library reference publishers. The founding of Gale marked the beginning of 50 years of activity that influenced both publishing and volunteer service.
Started in 1956 with one book – the Encyclopedia of Associations – Gale Research became known for its ability to identify information gaps and fill them with high-quality, comprehensive works that quickly became staples on library shelves and websites around the world. Contemporary Authors and the Dictionary of Literary Biography are among the scores of reference sources that continue to serve students' and scholars' research needs. In 1985, with more than 2,000 books in print and a staff of 400 employees in Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, and New York City, Mr. Ruffner sold Gale to International Thomson. After the sale of Gale, Mr. Ruffner founded Omnigraphics, Inc., which continues his legacy of reference publishing.
Mr. Ruffner was both a publishing powerhouse and fierce advocate for libraries. In 1985, the Association of American Publishers honored him with the tenth annual Curtis Benjamin Award, describing him as an individual "whose vision, imagination, and entrepreneurial spirit have generated publications which set new standards for information publishing."
In 1987, Mr. Ruffner was awarded an honorary lifetime membership by the American Library Association in honor of his publishing creativity and his leadership role in advocacy for libraries, which included his service as a delegate in the 1979 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services and as president of Friends of Libraries U.S.A., a federation of more than 2,500 local and state library Friends groups. He was also founding president of the Michigan Center for the Book and served as a president of the board for the Friends of the Detroit Public Library.
Mr. Ruffner maintained a second home and office in Florida, extending his community activism there. As president of the Friends of Fort Lauderdale Library, he led support for passage of a bond issue, which brought about the Broward County Main Library plus 20 branch libraries. He was a founder of the Broward Public Library Foundation -- which presents the annual Night of Literary Feasts and Day of Literary Lectures -- and of the Fontaneda Society for Florida's rare book collectors. He also initiated the Literary Landmarks Association, which recognizes author sites nationwide, helped create the Florida Center for the Book and co-founded the lauded Key West Literary Seminar.
In the book Knowledge is of Two Kinds, Carol Nemeyer, former Associate Librarian of Congress, describes Mr. Ruffner's impact on libraries: "The encouragement and support he gave to the library movement [in Florida], goes beyond what money could do. He is a caring and modest man. His understanding of how American corporate business can help libraries, for their own benefit as well as the public's, has been important. His awards program for the American Library Association has made it possible to recognize future leaders in the profession. One of Fred's finest qualities is his quiet willingness to share what he knows and what he has without the profit motive. He's first class--that's the best way to sum him up."
In the early '90s Mr. Ruffner served as publisher of Gold Coast Magazine and worked to expand its focus on the cultural life of South Florida. He also founded the Gold Coast Jazz Society, served on the board of Bonnet House and Garden and established the Las Olas Corridor Beautification Fund to improve the area surrounding his Ft. Lauderdale offices.
A native of Akron, Ohio, Mr. Ruffner enlisted in the U.S. Army at age 17 and fought on Saipan and Okinawa during World War II, earning the Bronze Star for Valor and the Combat Infantry Award. He was recommended for a battlefield appointment to West Point, but chose instead to attend Ohio State University on the G.I. bill after the war ended. He graduated from OSU in 1950 and 35 years later chaired a capital campaign that raised $460 million for his alma mater.
Mr. Ruffner was preceded in death by his wife Mary and his Grandson Tyson. He is survived by his sons Rick Ruffner (Cat), Peter Ruffner, and granddaughters Zoe, Jessa and Isabella.
A memorial service will be held September 20th at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church in Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan.