Susan Elizabeth McFeely ’59

Susan Elizabeth McFeely (now Suzy Ruhe), Class of 1959
I attended Rockridge Elementary and Claremont Junior High before coming to Tech. I loved high school. I always sat in the first row and had an answer for everything. My favorite classes were Spanish, choir, glee club, and stagecraft (building sets and painting). I was a thespian and a performer, performing in anything and everything. I was Annie in “Annie Get Your Gun” and the peddler’s girlfriend in “Oklahoma.” I sang and danced. I also read to blind students at Tech. We had readers for that. I remember George Bliss, the principal. I was also Tech’s bulldog mascot for basketball. There were try-outs to be the mascot. You had to dress up in a stinky, sweaty costume. The head was fiberglass. It was a secret who Bobo was. Everyone thought it was a boy. There was a big revelation at the assembly at the end of the year. Everyone would write down the names. They never guessed me. What I remember most was ironing the blue gym suit. You had to stand for inspection every Monday morning in a starched and ironed uniform. I never did anything wrong, so I don’t know what happened if you didn’t pass inspection. We wore “middies” on Fridays, but in my mom’s time, the girls wore them every day. I remember my mother telling me to “take typing, because you can always use the skill.” She was right! Typing skills saved my life over and over with furthering studies and employment. If you have keyboarding skills, you can express yourself and no one can steal your ideas. I am still close to my Tech friends today. I graduated with Huey Newton and I remember he sent a telegram from Soledad for our 10th reunion!

High school is academic, but it is also an opportunity to get to know yourself. One amazing thing at Tech was that they gave you an aptitude test in 11th grade and they said I would work with animals and live in the country. And I said no way. But I married the Oakland zoo director and lived in Africa! After that I moved to the country. Now I am not suited for Oakland any more.

After high school, I worked under Bill Mott at Children’s Fairyland and then at the San Francisco Zoo, where I met Lutz Ruhe, whose family had been in the zoo business for four generations. He and his brother had started the Oakland Baby Zoo at Knowland Park and he and I became co-owners. We sold it to the Oakland Zoo Society in 1975. After five years in television on “Romper Room” on ABC/KGO, “Froggy’s Club House” on KBHK, and “I’ve Got a Secret” on KPIX, and co-hosting with Marlo Thomas for a St. Jude’s Hospital Fund Raising Drive, I went off to Africa in 1969 and worked as a safari guide in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda until 1978. Then we settled in Coarsegold and I taught ESL and adult education in Fresno for 25 years.

My advice to today’s students is to have a great time but keep you eyes and ears open. Take advantage of every opportunity you have. You never know what is going to guide you. You have the chance to stretch your wings and experience things that are deeply within you.