Cross country coach cooking up kindness


Men’s cross country and track & field Head Coach, Tom Rutledge, often hosts his athletes or international students for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. Rutledge says he enjoys providing students who are unable to return to their homes over the holidays with a place to have their meals.

Jeremy Thomas

The continuing pattern of culture beliefs or practices is just one definition of tradition. For  men’s cross country Head Coach, Tom Rutledge, there’s been one tradition he’s been doing for 35 years.

Back when Rutledge used to coach at Arkansas Tech, which was an inner city school, he  cooked meals for all his athletes on every team he coached. 

He’s carried on that same tradition since 1976 and loves every second of it.

“It has been a long tradition in my household to provide food especially during the holidays,” Rutledge said. 

“I don’t want to be praised or have a lot of attention on me. 

“I’m just doing a household tradition that I love hosting,”

Rutledge generally talks to international students on campus to find out if they’re going home for the holidays. 

If they’re staying in Joplin, he will invite them to his home where he and his wife, Karen, are more than willing to host the students for a good Thanksgiving, or sometimes Christmas, dinner. 

Rutledge also mentioned that he cooks everything from homemade stuffing—he swears to never give up his recipe—to smoked ham or turkey.

“Some students, whether they are international students, out-of-state students or just students that can’t go home, sometimes don’t have the chance to have a nice Thanksgiving meal,” he said. “I do my best to allow them to have a good Thanksgiving meal with my household.”

He also mentioned that being around a family environment during the holidays for those who are not able to go back home provides a level of comfort and gives them a lasting impression after the gathering is finished.

Some students lucky enough to participate in one of the dinners still remember them fondly.

“I still have some international, along with out-of-state, students who came over to my house years ago, come up to me or call me saying how great that one Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner was; that’s what makes me happy the most,” Rutledge said.

Rutledge usually has anywhere from five to 10 extra guests in his house. 

This year, he’ll have his gathering on the Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday. 

“I always look forward to the holidays, and cooking; I’m a very good cook,” he said.