Reaching for the Sky: Hrubes’ Spirit of Service, Leadership Remembered
Ryan Hrubes (’10 agricultural business) met his wife Emily Chappie at a National Agri- Marketing Association (NAMA) meeting while they were both undergraduates— he at Iowa State University, she at The Ohio State University.
They would cross paths three more times in three different states neither of them lived in.
“It was a God thing,” says Emily.
In time, their friendship led to a marriage proposal.
Ryan was a sales representative for Dow AgroSciences. Emily worked for Union Pacific Railroad as a business manager. As newlyweds, the two were active in their church and community at Calvary Omaha Church in Omaha. Ryan was treasurer for Young Professionals in Agriculture, Nebraska and Southwest Iowa Chapter. They both were active in Agriculture Future of America (AFA), a nationally recognized leadership and career development organization they participated in as college students.
On August 20, 2015, Ryan, Emily and their friends and mentors Rev. Ty Schenzel and his wife Terri were involved in an automobile accident.
Emily was the only survivor.
“Ryan was a man of character, service and passion. He loved the Lord greatly and because of his faith he believed in our individual responsibility not to be served, but to serve. Ryan demonstrated this through his love to many, how he advocated for agriculture, his engagement in the community and his commitment to being a lifelong learner,” says Emily.
Investing in people
In November 2015, Emily, Ryan’s sister Andrea and his brother Nathan announced plans to remember Ryan to 1,000 guests at the AFA Leader in Agriculture Award Dinner. The Ryan Hrubes Memorial Scholarship for Leadership in Agriculture at Iowa State would provide academic support and financial support for a student to attend AFA. Also, AFA would create a lifelong learner scholarship in Ryan’s name to be awarded to students based on service and dedication to self-improvement.
Emily told the AFA participants: “Serve your neighbor. Stand up for what you believe in. Never stop learning.”
They gave her a standing ovation.
Mike Gaul (’86 MS horticulture), director of Career Services in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, administers Ryan’s memorial scholarship, which includes a cash stipend and sponsorship to AFA.
“Ryan’s life balance of family, faith, community, friends and work was to be envied and only adds to his legacy as a quality individual,” Gaul says.
Throughout his four years at Iowa State Ryan worked for Gaul in the college’s career services office. He was a member of the Agricultural Business Club, NAMA, VEISHEA and AFA. He completed six internships, including an internship in Brazil. He also studied abroad in Australia, Germany and Malaysia.
The first recipient of Hrubes scholarship, Joni Erwin, exemplifies many of the same attributes Ryan possessed.
Erwin is a senior in agricultural business from Crawfordsville, Iowa. Erwin is president of the Agricultural Business Club, a College of Agriculture and Life Sciences student ambassador and a member of NAMA, the Agricultural Marketing and Management Organization, Alpha Zeta and Cardinal Key. She’s participated in three study abroad programs and completed internships in crop scouting, marketing and sales. Erwin is a recipient of the Fred Foreman Scholarship for Growth in Leadership Participation and is in the fourth track of AFA’s leadership development program.
“My leadership skills have benefitted greatly from these positions. I’ve learned so much about leading an organization, collaborating with other student leaders and serving as a mentor to my peers. I strive to get others involved and encourage them to develop as leaders and professionals,” Erwin says. “It is such an honor to receive this scholarship in memory of Ryan.”
“It’s a privilege to support future leaders like Joni. I know Ryan would be proud of this,” Emily says. “One of the reasons it was so important was that Ryan and I had creating scholarships at Ohio State and Iowa State on our bucket list.”
Iowa State grown Buckeye
Emily and Ryan’s story also touched colleagues at Emily’s alma mater.
Jill Arnett, program manager of The Ohio State University College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Office of Prospective Student Services, says the college’s ambassador team wanted to support Emily and “pay it forward” in offering a living memorial for Ryan—a tree planting at Iowa State.
“By planting a buckeye tree we hope it provides a positive impact for all who see it, even if they don’t know why it is planted. Emily focused on impacting as many people as possible at Ohio State.
We hope this tree continues to grow and mature throughout the seasons while extending strong roots as both Emily and Ryan portrayed,” Arnett says. “We hope his loved ones know by planting this tree we celebrate his life.”
The buckeye was grafted from a parent tree on the Iowa State campus. Planted in October, between Ross and Curtiss Halls, the tree grounds Ryan’s memory to Iowa State for generations.
An excerpt from the tree’s memorial reads:
“Ryan served both The Ohio State University and Iowa State University during his time as a student through Agriculture Future of America by providing mentorship, leadership workshops and inspiration to land-grant students involved in the organization. Ryan’s wife, Emily (Chappie) Hrubes, is an alumnae of The Ohio State University and consummate leader who continues to inspire and lead the future of agriculture in many ways… This tree is a memorial gift between two colleges of agriculture in recognition and thanks for the impact our students make on each other. May this tree be a reminder to all that this life is about serving others.”