Since the late 70’s, William Mitchell “Mitch” Rue, Jr. ’81 has been an important member of the Blue Ridge School community. Just as significantly, Mitch will tell you, Blue Ridge has been an integral part of who he is and how he lives his life. The importance of character and a renewed love for learning are the phrases he uses most often when recalling how his professors (yes, Mitch calls them professors) at Blue Ridge have influenced him. Before he began attending Blue Ridge, Mitch was struggling academically at an independent school in Louisville, Kentucky. Both he and his parents knew he needed a change.
Blue Ridge was a good fit for Mitch from the start. He immediately grew to admire one professor in particular. Dr. Kettlewell taught him Heart of Darkness, Brave New World, 1984, Catcher in the Rye and several Poe stories. “He weaved spiritual themes into the curriculum and made it easier for me to visualize my faith,” Rue remembers. Mitch credits BRS with his early connection to the church and his becoming an Episcopalian.
In his junior year, he was so impressed with how well Professor Neiderberger explained the Bill of Rights, the Constitution and the influence of the founding fathers that he still pursues more knowledge on those subjects even today. Mitch’s love for history continued his senior year as Mr. Churchill broke down complex historical events into understandable smaller pieces. “He was able to weave many of the world’s events together and provide cause and effect for interconnected events,” recalls Mitch.
Even in the early 80’s, Blue Ridge showed a flexibility that allowed Mitch and others to determine their own curricular direction to some extent based on interests. He remembers fondly that Dr. Hamner graciously taught Spanish III to John Batte ’81 and him. It was an amazingly enriching experience.
Mitch soon secured leadership positions as he was selected by his peers and professors to be a Proctor and eventually a Prefect. He also became co-captain of the varsity soccer team. “I convinced by good friend to join that soccer team. He agreed if I would join the lacrosse team, a sport I never would have played if not attending BRS.” It is a testimony once again to his character that Mitch received the Citizenship Award his senior year.
In the years following his graduation from BRS, Mitch continued to find success. He graduated from the University of Alabama with a BA in Communication and a minor in Marketing. His first job out of college was in sales for a food broker in Atlanta, Georgia. Along the way, he also completed his Lean Six Sigma Certification at Purdue University. Six Sigma is a method that provides organizations the tools to improve the capability of their business processes.
Mitch then landed a position with Brown-Forman Corporation, a $4 billion wine and spirits business based out of Louisville, Kentucky. “I enjoyed a career in sales/marketing management roles with progressive responsibility in five distinctly different markets and customer bases in locations such as California, Kentucky, South Carolina, Connecticut and Georgia.” He worked in the Brown-Forman organization for twenty-two years.
After that time, Mitch’s ambition drove him to become an entrepreneur in the technology services space. He eventually sold that business. Mitch and a partner now run a sales growth advisory called BEI Sales Growth Accelerators. This company works with growing organizations to enrich their sales process, develop strategic multipliers and perform at a higher level.
It is yet again an indication of Mitch’s great character that he has been awarded Top Sales Person of the Year in two different organizations and has also won National Team awards. In addition, he was recently selected Rotarian of the Year for his 450-member club for his work with the Louisville Rotary Promise Scholarship, which consists of two $1 million scholarships and wrap-around programs for two of Louisville’s underperforming public high schools.
Mitch considers convincing Jennifer Twomey to marry him to be his greatest accomplishment. She and Mitch have two sons, William and Jackson, both in middle school. “Jen really is the best mother two boys could have. She instills in both of them the importance of character and ethics, and they’ve both been recognized for their citizenship.” The family attends St. Francis in the Fields Episcopal Church.
One has to wonder if Mitch ever has any down time. In addition to sharing great life experiences with his family, he enjoys biking, golf and fishing. And his service to his Louisville, Kentucky, community is extensive. First, he serves as a board member for the Jefferson County Public Education Foundation. He has helped steer the new strategic plan for that organization. Second, he works with the Louisville Rotary Promise Scholarship Program, which helps impoverished students to matriculate from high school to college and eventually to find employment. Third, he’s on the board of Loaves and Fishes, Incorporated, an organization that feeds the homeless and provides empowering services for an impoverished neighborhood in Louisville.
All of this certainly keeps Mitch busy, yet he still finds time to stay in touch with BRS roommate Davis Talley ’81 and classmate Ted Cadmus ’81 as well as Louisville alumni Morton Boyd ’86, Allen Bush ’69, Ward Deters ’86, Willie McLean ’86 and Julian Van Winkle ’69.
As if serving on two boards in Louisville weren’t enough, Mitch has served on the Blue Ridge Board of Trustees since 2009. During this time, he served as the Chair of the Advancement and Admissions committee and helped the School undertake its most recent marketing and branding project. Mitch was recently named Chair of the Blue Ridge School Board of Trustees.
“When I was a student, BRS gave me opportunities to lead and to polish my confidence in the classroom. I also learned how to organize my time and my thoughts so that I could lead a successful life. It has been such an honor to be selected by my peers to give back to my alma mater as Chair of the Board.”