Pride, passion, results, integrity, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit. Those are the tenants of Ruffalo-CODY a multi-million, multi-national company led by University of Iowa College of Education graduate Al Ruffalo (MA ‘75).
“I live my life that way and I think my employees do as well,” Ruffalo says.
Ruffalo-CODY is a Cedar Rapids-based company that works with nonprofits and educational institutions, including the University of Iowa, on fundraising, enrollment, and marketing. It started in 1991 as a small operation and has grown into a $100 million company with 550 fulltime employees and approximately 5,000 student employees around the country and abroad.
Ruffalo earned his UI degree in educational administration. Prior to entering the business world, he was a teacher and principal in Cedar Rapids. He says the skills he learned in the College of Education and in his career in education are a major influence on Ruffalo-CODY.
“I learned how to think creatively and how to manage,” he says. “Managing a classroom or managing teachers is no different than managing a big organization like we have. My background in education taught me how to manage with compassion.”
Ruffalo, former CEO and now Executive Chairman of the Board at the company, says it’s important to him and the other company founders to keep their successful company based in Iowa. More than half of the fulltime employees are based in Cedar Rapids. Others live as far away as Australia.
Joe Cunningham has worked with Ruffalo since 1987 and recently retired as Ruffalo-CODY’s chief financial officer. He says he learned a lot from Ruffalo the teacher.
“When we’re talking about solving a problem or designing something new, he’ll rarely say, ‘Okay, let’s do it that way. That makes sense,’ It’s always, ‘What about if we did this? What about if we did that?’ He’s not only constantly learning himself, but he’s teaching me and others around us that there are other ways to do things that may be the right way,” Cunningham says.
Ruffalo says all of his work is guided by those tenants he defined for Ruffao-CODY: Pride, passion, results, integrity, dedication, and entrepreneurial spirit.
“I have 500-some people who assume I’m going to make good decisions so that their livelihood is intact,” Ruffalo says. “I’m truly attempting to build a better life for them.”