“Computer Science runs in my family,” said 2nd Lt. Weston Ruths, a recent Rice graduate and commissioned officer of the U.S. Marine Corps. “My three older brothers all had a vested interest and they created an excitement in me from a young age.”
After Weston’s first month or two at Rice, he realized the university offered a unique opportunity to join the armed forces. “Both of my mother’s parents had served in the Army,” Ruths said, “so it must have been in the back of my mind.” His previous martial arts training helped him appreciate the rigorous NROTC program and he knew the discipline would benefit his overall Rice experience, and lead to an officer’s commission. He applied for and was awarded a Marine Corps scholarship in his sophomore year.
“It’s tough, but you come to respect the program,” he said. Each day, he woke at 4:30 a.m. and joined his ROTC unit by 5:30, for two hours of physical and general military training. The commanding officer of the unit in the fall, Ruths spent additional time reviewing the progress of the unit, identifying issues and shaping the training program for other Navy and Marine Corps midshipmen. After a quick breakfast, Ruths headed to his regular Rice classes at 8 or 9 a.m.
“The biggest challenge was going to bed at 10 or 11 and up again at 4:30,” said Ruths. “Your friends are working late nights and into the early morning hours, so it is difficult to work with your peers, and it didn’t leave me much time.” He also reserved time each week to practice and perform with the Rice Philharmonics (known as “The Phils”). “It was a struggle to maintain momentum throughout the day,” he said. “But the challenges imposed by the program help you learn to find the method through the madness. You adapt, and discipline is instilled into your life so that the schedule becomes very natural.”
He credits that daily schedule, training and mentoring by Rice’s Naval Science staff, and the program’s overall rigor for preparing him for Officer Candidate School. Ruths said, “You have to pass OCS [to become an officer], and it was the hardest thing I’ve done in my life.” During the intensive, six-week training and evaluation course in Quantico, Va., officer candidates are plunged into simulated, chaotic environments that resemble combat. “And it doesn’t just last for a few hours,” he said, “it goes on for multiple weeks because that’s simply how combat is.”
Ruths starts his Marine Corps career in September with The Basic School. His fall start date allows him to spend the summer in a post-graduation internship at Ruths.ai, a company run by his brother, Troy Ruths (PhD CS ’10). “My brother’s data analytics company has an e-commerce store, Exchange.ai, that sells templates and extensions, apps for data analysis. I’ll be making marketing videos and even doing some app programming for the site. I feel confident in the skill set I got in both CS and NROTC,” he said. “These areas will help me when I do go into civilian work; I don’t feel limited to the military. I don’t believe the Marine Corps shuts any doors. In fact, it opens them. There will be life beyond the Marine Corps.”
Ruths feels an affinity for CS but did not choose a traditional path filled with hackathons, research and summer internships. “I think I always knew I would take a different path,” he said. “A life of service to this nation was always going to be my destiny. It just took the form of the Marine Corps.”
–Carlyn Chatfield, Computer Science Publicist