CEDAR FALLS, Iowa --- Kim McCarty of Marion thought he'd be moving his fourth child into a University of Northern Iowa dorm by himself on Thursday. Little did he know he'd be getting a little presidential help hoisting his daughter's mini-fridge from the trunk of the family car.
"Did you leave anything at home, dad?" President Bill Ruud asked McCarty, rolling a cart up to the truck. Striking up impromptu chatter with the family, Ruud only revealed himself when prompted by the reporters that followed him.
"I think this is great. I never got Ben Allen to help us," McCarty said at the eye-popping surprise when Ruud revealed himself. Molly, his daughter, is his third child attending UNI.
Ruud, sporting purple and gold tennis shoes, along with his wife, Judy, spent the hottest part of Thursday afternoon helping families of freshmen and sophomores move their belongings into Noehren and Hagemann residence halls.
"My brother will be excited," said freshman Molly McCarty whose brother, Ben, graduated from UNI. The family took a picture with the president, proof to show their son that Ruud really helped his sister move in.
Ruud unloaded McCarty's cart with the family, asking Molly where she would like each item placed. He joked with the students down the hall, poking his head into open dorm rooms.
"I did it for six and a half years at Shippensburg, and it was very effective," Ruud said of his former position as president at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. Ruud said it's a fantastic experience.
"This is what we do all the time. This is what we're all about," he said.
Pat Beck, deputy director of residence, said it's a UNI tradition for the president to greet students on move-in day, but she's never seen a president break a sweat over it.
"He wants to be part of the student experience, not just manage all the things that support it," Beck said. "It's just part of the distinctive experience you'd have at the UNI."
Ruud and his wife weren't the only people lending hands this week. Fifteen members of the football team and volunteers from UNI Career Services and admissions, Prairie Lakes Church and the Target Distribution Center pitched in as well.
"It's the only way you can manage something like this where you're moving in thousands of people in a very short period of time," said Glenn Gray, newly appointed executive director of residence at UNI. "The only way it can be done well is to recruit the help and support of larger campus community."