It is said that the median years the average person will stay in one job is 4.1. Ruby Calvert is not the average person. Calvert has devoted thirty years to Wyoming Public Broadcasting. She has played a huge role in keeping the station alive and relevant and epitomizes what it means to be a strong leader. And for that we all reap the benefits.
With such a career one would think Ruby has always known that broadcasting was her call in life, but she will tell you otherwise. A Wyoming native who was born in Rawlins and grew up in Shoshoni before attending the University of Wyoming, Ruby was nudged, as many women were in those days, into teaching. In fact, she graduated in 1971 with an English teaching degree but knew the classroom was not the right fit.
“I like to write,” she says, “if it would’ve been today I would have pursued journalism or communications.” Ruby reflects that vocational screenings weren’t a part of the educational system at that time. Instead students were often guided by their gender. If you were a female, typically you would be directed toward nursing and teaching careers – perhaps with a bit of book keeping and shorthand thrown in for good measure. Males, on the other hand, were steered toward engineering and sciences. “I am so glad to see that women have more options today,” she says.
In 1971, following graduation, Ruby and her husband, Ed, moved to Portland where he had taken a job with Pacific Power and Light as an engineer. In 1974 he was transferred to Casper and would, a few years later, be asked to transfer again. While the position with Pacific Power was a good one, the Calverts felt strongly that Wyoming was home; close to family and a great place to raise children. Ed left Pacific Power and soon found work in Riverton, a “serendipitous” turn of events that would lead Ruby to figuring out “what in the heck she wanted to do.”
Serendipity began the day Ruby read that Central Wyoming College would be running a public broadcasting TV station. Immediately drawn to the idea of working in the field, she contacted the supervisor of the project. From the get go Ruby helped to write grants to secure funds and had her hands in as much of the action as she could. She loved the work and her enthusiasm and hard work paid off. The project’s supervisor, and first General Manager for the station, asked Calvert what position she wanted moving forward and before she knew it, Ruby had landed the part of programming director. In preparing for the role she took some broadcasting classes, visited other stations, “self-studying” to gain the knowledge needed to successfully tackle the job. And she has continued studying to build her skills, become a strong leader and make Wyoming PBS something to be proud of.
In the early years, when the station only had ten full-time people, Calvert was also a producer – writing, shooting and editing over 100 programs for broadcast on the station; in 1990, she wrote the first grant to start the “Main Street, Wyoming “ series, which is still one of the signature series on Wyoming PBS today. At different times in the early history, she managed programming and traffic, promotion, underwriting and education. “We had such a small staff in the first ten years, we all did whatever was necessary to get the job done.” Then, as the station’s coverage area grew to reach all corners of the state, the staff also grew, and the station now has 23 full-time employees.
When the General Manager position opened in the spring of 2006, after 25 years, Calvert felt she was ready for the job. She was first offered the job on an interim basis, and then, after six months, was finally named General Manager of Wyoming PBS. Even though there were challenges, she recognized that her concern about “being ready” was unnecessary. “Women never quite feel as confident in our skills as we should. No matter how hard we work, [in our minds] we never work hard enough. I don’t know where that attitude comes from,” she says slightly frustrated.
Despite being general manager for only a year, Calvert was elected to serve on the national PBS Board by other station general managers in 2008, and was re-elected in 2011. “Being on the PBS Board has been a unique honor,” says Calvert, “and it is leadership on another level. But you basically do the same thing – prepare for the meetings, study the issues, listen to others, and then make the best decisions you can. And finally,” Calvert says, “it makes you realize that no one has all the answers. As leaders, we’re all struggling with issues we can’t control, and trying to change the ones we can.”
It is clear that Ruby recognizes the importance of women in leadership roles. She is quick to note that in the public TV world, there are 173 PBS stations and of those, approximately 20 have women as GMs. But she also is hopeful. She can list many women who are outstanding in the field. “It’s just taking a while” to get women in leadership positions. Calvert goes on to stress the need for settings in which women can talk with other women who have “been there and done that,” to build opportunities for females to take on those leadership roles.
And what defines a strong leader to Ruby? “Someone who is knowledgeable, articulate, positive and has a vision for the future” Ruby is a great example of all these attributes. But she is also much more. She thrives on looking ahead and adapting, on diving into her work in a way that allows her to create new challenges for herself and keep her job fresh – even after thirty years. Her greatest accomplishments might be in her past but in speaking with her you get the sense that they are also on the horizon.