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Elisabeth Ruffner (1919 - 2019)
Elisabeth Friedrich Ruffner is the quintessential Renaissance woman. She is a writer, a radio and TV host, an advocate for the arts, a cultural historian and a preservationist. She was born September 17, 1919 in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from the University of Cincinnati and in 1940 traveled to Arizona by train to meet the family of her fiancé, Lester “Budge” Ruffner. She married him shortly thereafter and fully embraced Arizona in general and Prescott in particular as her home. She is the mother of three.
Elisabeth is a dedicated supporter of Arizona’s heritage and is best known for her tireless efforts on behalf of the arts, historic preservation, Arizona’s libraries and Arizona’s women. According to an interview with Karen Despain of the Prescott Daily Courier, Elisabeth’s advocacy for the arts and humanities became a passion because they are “ the most telling expressions of humankind’s desire for perfection.” As a champion of historic preservation, Elisabeth has been instrumental in establishing numerous historic districts. She has worked to save more than 700 (at last count) historic buildings in Arizona and helped secure each one a listing in the National Register of Historic Places.
Elisabeth has been elected and appointed to leadership roles in numerous organizations. She demonstrates excellence, initiative and imagination with every presidency and chairmanship she accepts. In the 1970s she chaired the Prescott Public Library Board and led the capital campaign to obtain funding for a new library building. She was one of the founders of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, an organization that works with local, state and national partners to promote and protect Arizona’s historical, archeological, architectural and cultural resources. She also served as its first president.
She served as founding president of the Prescott Area Arts and Humanities Council and president of the Yavapai Heritage Foundation. She served as the Chairman of the City of Prescott Mayor’s Committee on Economic Development where she wrote and saw adopted the Prescott Historic Preservation Ordinance. She was Chair of the state’s Historic Sites Committee, served as an advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation and received a Presidential appointment to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Services. Recently, she spearheaded the capital campaign for the Elks Opera House in Prescott, raising over 1.7 million dollars for the successful renovation and preservation of this historic building.
Recognized nationally and locally, her awards are too numerous to list them all. A mention of a few of them will give you some idea of her many achievements. In 1969 she received the Rosenzweig Award from the Arizona State Library Association for outstanding citizen participation; a Cultural Achievement Award in 1980 from the US Department of the Interior; an Arizona Governor’s award for Historic Preservation; the Individual Award at the 29th annual Governor’s Arts Awards and she was named History Maker by the Arizona Historical Society and a Culture Keeper, a program originated by philanthropist Katherine Herberger to honor individuals who have demonstrated a long-time commitment and passionate dedication to keeping Arizona’s culture alive.
Those who work with Elisabeth know that she is never one to sit by. If there is a need, she immediately sets about to get something done and nearly always succeeds. She has brought about change and influenced local, state and national values through her initiative and leadership.