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"Don't be afraid to walk the talk. Assert your beliefs."—Class of '52 
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Advancement

Following a Dream 

In her teen years, Leslie VanderGriend Ruiter dreamed of being a musician and a lawyer. As a music major at Calvin, where she played oboe in the band and orchestra, it seemed she would realize a career as a musicologist or composer. But a guest professor, teaching a class on the ethics of international politics, encouraged students like Leslie to consider law school. The lecturer said that law is a great profession for young Christians who are pursuing liberal arts degrees and whose lives are steeped in reformed theology. The lecturer, then from the American University of Beirut, Lebanon, was current Calvin president, Gaylen Byker.

Ruiter consequently reconsidered her dream, set aside a latent belief that law school was only for boys and made application to graduate schools of music and law. With more offers and scholarship assistance from law schools than schools of music, Ruiter followed the career nudging of President Byker and graduated in 1990 from Emory University with a joint degree in law (JD) and theological studies (MTS)—a program headed by Emory Law School professor John Witte, Jr., a 1982 Calvin graduate.

Now living in Seattle, Washington, Ruiter is a partner in the Stokes Lawrence law firm where she is the chair of the intellectual property department. She practices exclusively in the area of intellectual property, including U.S. and foreign trademarks, copyrights, licensing and adversarial matters. Her trademark protection work, which she terms "the most fun a lawyer can have," brings connections with lawyers all over the world, from Norway to Seoul and South Africa. She has filed one brief in the U.S. Supreme Court, presented an oral argument in the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals and been an expert witness in a music copyright infringement lawsuit. Ruiter was recently featured in Seattle Magazine as one of the top lawyers in Seattle.

Ruiter and her husband, Steve, also a Calvin graduate and a consulting pension actuary, are the parents of three sons—ages eight, three and one. In order to keep family a priority, Ruiter is grateful to work in a law firm that stresses "a reasonable life balance where making the most money is not the guiding principle." Carrying her values, rooted in a strong Christian family and supported by a Christian education, Ruiter said she has indeed found the field of law fulfilling and amenable to Christian service—just as the guest professor said.

 

Leslie and Steve Ruiter with sons, Joshua, David and Michael.
Leslie and Steve Ruiter with sons, Joshua, David and Michael.
Chapel in the Auditorium of the Theological School at the northwest corner of Franklin and Madison, 1910.
Chapel in the Auditorium of the Theological School at the northwest corner of Franklin and Madison, 1910. The room was called the Aula, Dutch for auditorium or large room.
 
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