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Ronald Gary Rubin

Dedicated professor and sensei, loving husband and father

Ron Rubin, a longtime Claremont resident and professor of the history of ideas at Pitzer College, died peacefully with his wife, Susan Perry, by his side on October 22, 2014 after a long battle with cancer. He was 69.

He was born in Cleveland, Ohio on September 26, 1945. A successful high-school debater, he was an undergraduate at Amherst and earned his PhD at Cornell University. Dr. Rubin came to Pitzer College as an assistant professor of philosophy in 1972. He taught there and lived in Claremont from that time until his death. 

His academic career was focused on the history of philosophy and more generally the history of ideas, including the role the occult played in the development of early modern science. His book Silencing the Demon’s Advocate: The Strategy of Descartes’ Meditations was published by Stanford University Press in 2008; he also published several scholarly articles on Descartes and a widely-used translation of Descartes’ Meditations. Dr. Rubin’s interests, however, included all facets of the world of ideas and its history, from Aristotle to Plotinus, to Boethius and Donne, to the spiritual dimensions of Aikido and other martial arts.

“His students describe him as brilliant, having a unique approach to teaching and a fascinating breadth and depth of knowledge,” according to a recent Pitzer College tribute.

Dr. Rubin was promoted to tenure at Pitzer in 1977 and to full professor in 1981. With his longtime colleague and friend, Barry Sanders, he founded the department or “field group” of the history of ideas at Pitzer, and the two co-taught a wide variety of classes and seminars. Dr. Rubin also was a powerful presence in college politics. It was thrilling to be in the classroom with Dr. Rubin, who made him proud to be part of the Pitzer faculty, Dr. Sanders said.

“Ron Rubin never let loose his grip—his most powerful and assured grip—on the truth. But, more than that, he simply would not shut up; he could not be silenced,” Dr. Sanders recalled. “Time and again, he brought the truth home to whoever was in front of him—one or two people, or an entire assembly. The audience mattered not at all.” 

“Colleagues recognized in him absolute integrity, brilliance and a colossal power of mind,” Dr. Sanders continued. “In his persistence and in his intellectual courage, he offered every student a model of ethical being. Faculty Council meetings fell silent whenever Ron spoke… the majority of us knew that Ron Rubin almost always got things right.”

Dr. Rubin and his wife Susan began the study of Aikido in 1978, rising through the ranks to 6th degree blackbelt or rokudan. The couple started the Claremont Colleges’ Aikido Club and then, in 1982, founded the Musubi Dojo. They founded the nonprofit Aiko Institute in 2004. The dojo was a Claremont staple for more than 25 years before moving to neighboring Montclair in 2008. Doctors Rubin and Perry have taught classes on Aikido to thousands of students over the past 31 years. 

Dr. Rubin valued the way Aikido and related practices like Zen calligraphy, at which he was adept, help to quiet the mind. His philosophy was encapsulated in a 2010 San Bernardino Sun article: “As Sensei Rubin so simply states, ‘When everyone comes in with their problems and daily stresses, they leave it with their shoes on the shoe rack.’”

In 1987, Ron and Susan founded Aikido Today Magazine, a non-partisan international journal, and the Arete Press, which published many books on philosophy, Aikido and related topics. Aikido Today Magazine—which finished its run with the 100th issue in 2005—exerted a unifying influence on the somewhat splintered world of Aikido, with articles, editorials and, perhaps most importantly before the internet, comprehensive news about events being held at various dojos. They also organized “friendship workouts” at Aikido expos, led many Aikido retreats in Mt. Baldy and hosted major Aikido leaders at their Musubi Dojo and later at the Aiko Institute. 

Arete Press began when Dr. Rubin and his wife began printing poetry on an old 1903 Chandler & Price printing press they had bought on a whim and had to find use for. It matured into a successful publishing house (no longer using the antique press) promoting the study of the techniques, history, and spiritual dimensions of Aikido through books and videotapes, as well as publishing books on philosophy and related topics. Like Aikido Today Magazine, Arete Press has promoted awareness among different schools of Aikido with books like Aikido Talks: Conversations with American Aikidoists, co-edited by Dr. Rubin and Dr. Perry.

“I knew Ron for nearly 30 years,” friend and fellow sensei Mary Heiny said. “He loved O-sensei and Aikido. He had a brilliant mind, a shy personality and great sense of humor. He was devoted to his wife and his academic and Aikido students. He was grateful to all his teachers and for the opportunity to share what he had learned.”

Amid their professional endeavors, Ron and Susan also managed to raise a son, enjoy grandchildren and raise three wolves together. His son, John Schleis II, said of Dr. Rubin, “he was a great father and mentor.” His wife Susan said, “We enjoyed our life together on a deep and meaningful level. Saying goodbye to him breaks my heart.”

He is survived by his wife of 34 years, Susan Perry, and his son John Schleis II, both of Claremont, and grandchildren Erika Schleis of Austin, Texas and and Tyler Schleis of Lincoln, Nebraska. Dr. Rubin was predeceased by his grandson, Michael E. Schleis, in 2011.

Memorials can be read and left online at www.never-gone.com/memorials/rrubin. There will be a memorial service Saturday, November 29 at the Musubi Dojo, 4650 Arrow Hwy, D-6 in Montclair, with official ceremonies beginning at 2 p.m. Ron’s friends are encouraged to attend and share memories.

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