Alumni Feature: Rudy Ash, Class of 1998

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Rudy Ash, a graduate of the class of 1998, is currently the Chief Development Officer at the West End House, an independent, nonprofit organization in Boston which aims to provide over 1,500 young people with a variety of after-school and summer programs that promote professional and personal development. Prior to West End House , Rudy Ash held the position of Senior Development Officer at the Posse Foundation for seven years.

Upon graduation from Townsend Harris High School in 1998, Mr. Ash attended Carnegie Mellon University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in creative writing, which he remarks is a “relatively unrelated field [compared to his work].” After completing his degree, he went on to work in the field of fundraising and development. Ash states, “Working in development was not always a career goal, but it’s a field that is exciting and rewarding and happens to match some of my strengths, particularly writing and communications.” Mr. Ash supports the idea of allowing your experiences to alter your original goals, and encourages students to seek out opportunities that appeal to them.

Mr. Ash explains, “My job currently includes managing a team of 3 people to raise $2.5 million in private funding each year. This includes grant writing, event planning, research, and most importantly, developing relationships with people, companies, and foundations.” The work that is done goes towards the larger goal, “giving young people, particularly those from under-resourced communities, the opportunities to achieve their goals—whether that is performing the national anthem at Fenway Park, running a 5K, securing their first job, or earning a college degree.”

Rudy Ash accredits much of his professional success to his time spent at THHS, stating, “Attending THHS absolutely gave me a leg up in higher education. It made college feel easy and more importantly, it gave me a very strong foundation in writing that has helped me in my career.” Mr. Ash entered THHS as an incoming sophomore and had a difficult time adjusting. However, like most students, he soon warmed up to the environment. He states, “I was able to find a group of really great friends that I consider life-long.” Mr. Ash had little involvement in after school activities until his senior year, when he joined The Classic, the varsity basketball team, and the production of the school play, Guys & Dolls.

Mr. Ash adds, “I didn’t have a robust social life so that allowed me to focus a lot of my attention toward academics. I would not necessarily recommend that path to other students.”

As an alumnus of the school, Mr. Ash can relate to the stressful environment found at THHS. He states, “The culture of THHS promotes excellence and in some cases fierce competition, and it’s reinforced by faculty and school leadership, not to mention parents. There are high expectations—and while some students can thrive under pressure, the stress is not always healthy.”

The stress and hard work paid off greatly, as seen in the feats Mr. Ash has accomplished. Mr. Ash is happy with his current job, and is passionate about the work he does and the message he spreads. He has not abandoned the invaluable time management skills he acquired at THHS, stating, “I am most proud that I have managed to find a balance between my professional life [and] my personal life—raising two young children with my incredible wife.”

With regards to future plans, Mr. Ash remains passionate about his work, but is always open to change. He states, “I think it’s also important to understand that careers and ‘next steps’ are not always linear. It’s not like advancing grades in high school or college, and that is [okay]. I may end up with a ‘second career’ at some point too, and I’m very comfortable being open to that possibility.”

Mr. Ash’s resonating message is an important one for current students at THHS. He reflects on the idea of keeping an open mind, overcoming obstacles, and focusing on a larger picture rather than miniscule details. He reminds students that they are intelligent and must “figure out how to play [their] strengths.”

At the same time, however, Mr. Ash encourages students to remember not to sweat the small stuff and look at the positives of a situation. He advises, “In a lot of ways, the mistakes you make now are the best ones to make because there’s less at stake. There are plenty of great colleges and universities that are out there, and your high school GPA will not mean much once you are on a college campus, in the same way that your college GPA will not mean much once you are employed in your first job. The people you meet and the networks you make both at THHS and afterward are critical, so make sure you take the time to connect.”