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Ridley scholarship supports students pursuing careers in city management

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Paul Ridley has established a scholarship in honor of his grandfather Clarence E. Ridley with the purpose of supporting a graduate student pursuing a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA) and/or a career in city management.

“My grandfather grew up on a small farm in rural Michigan as one of 5 brothers,” Mr. Ridley said. “He was the first one in the family to attend college and worked his way through University of Michigan. He firmly believed that the keys to success in life were education and hard work. He ultimately went on to obtain a Ph.D. in public administration (also a first in the family) from Syracuse University. He encouraged both my brother and me to pursue our educations, so it is most appropriate that he be memorialized with this scholarship to assist students of public administration to reach their goals.”

Clarence Ridley not only encouraged his grandsons to pursue education, he was also an associate professor at the University of Chicago. Additionally, he had a role in the creation of the graduate program in public administration at the University of Kansas. This was during his time as the executive director of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA).

As the first full-time executive director for ICMA, Ridley had a desire to see the profession of city manager flourish. Prior to serving as the executive director, Ridley had spent time as the city manager of Bluefield, West Virginia, and he had done research work with the Institute of Public Administration in New York City. He was described by his colleagues as an entrepreneur and builder.

In 1935 Ridley and the ICMA assistant director launched the Municipal Management Series, the ICMA “Green Books,” with The American City and Its Government. The book was intended to introduce city managers, most of whom were engineers by education and experience, to a new world of city government. Ridley fervently believed in on-the-job training for city managers, finance directors, police and fire chiefs, public words directors, and other managers as well. (Read more about his time as ICMA director.)

Due to Ridley’s desire to see city managers and other public servants equipped with on-the-job training, it is no wonder that he helped establish the KU MPA intern-option program with its mixture of academic study and applied work. The first year of the MPA program incorporates a rigorous course load coupled with a part-time internship. The second year of the program is a full-time internship with part-time coursework. Because of the setup of the program, graduates can dive right into the city management profession already having had applicable work experience in the field.

Paul Ridley reminisces, “I remember [my grandfather] being very dedicated to furthering the cause of city management and he remained interested in it even after retirement by staying in touch with many managers.”

Ridley’s decision to give to the School was based on the reputation of it as the top school for city managers in the U.S.A. as well as a friendship with one of the School’s graduates, Bruno Rumbelow, city manager of Grapevine, TX. Ridley and Rumbelow used to get together for coffee and discuss the city management profession, even though it was not Ridley’s own profession.

Rumbelow, a 1988 graduate, pursued the MPA through the intern-option program. As a prospective student from Texas, he was drawn by the national reputation of the program in training city managers. He states, “My entire professional career leans on the fact that I was able to come to KU. I have always strived to be worthy of the opportunities that I got at KU and have my professional standards reflect the quality of the program. I love city management and what it stands for, the challenges it provides, and the breadth of issues that I get to work on and be a part of. It’s an honor to do this work.”

“My hope for the students who receive this scholarship is that they will have successful careers and further the profession of public administration,” Ridley said.

Director Reggie Robinson said, “We are profoundly grateful to Paul Ridley for this truly generous gift. This gift represents a significant investment in the education and development of professionals who are well-prepared to provide outstanding leadership in communities across the country. We are proud that Paul has decided that our School of Public Affairs and Administration should be the vehicle not only for such an investment, but also to carry the impressive legacy of Clarence E. Ridley, and all that he meant for the field of local government leadership.”

The first scholarship winner will be awarded this year. The fund is managed by KU Endowment, and anyone can contribute to the fund. This is the second scholarship fund established at the School in honor of a former ICMA director, the first being a scholarship named for Mark Keane.


Ruth DeWitt, Communications Manager
KU School of Public Affairs and Administration
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