Carol Senn Ruffin

Carol Senn Ruffin: 40 Years of Faithfulness

This year Carol Senn Ruffin celebrates her fortieth year as a faculty member at Maranatha Baptist University. Over the course of her remarkable career, Ruffin made enormous contributions to Maranatha’s drama and music departments. Her musical knowledge, communication skills, and earnest dedication to following the Lord’s will and crediting Him for all He has done through her has impacted the lives of both students and staff.

Early Years

Ruffin described music as the fabric of her family. Instead of having it forced on them, Ruffin and her siblings enjoyed pursuing music. “Every kid was dying to be allowed to take piano lessons,” Ruffin recalled. Specifically, she took inspiration from her mother, whom Ruffin called “the musical force” in her household. Ruffin’s mother sang in ensembles, directed her church choir, and played various instruments from the violin to the saxophone. To Ruffin playing handbells at MBUprovide her daughter an opportunity to minister, she signed Ruffin up for organ lessons when the church organist planned to leave the church for another ministry. Through her mother’s example and encouragement, Ruffin gained the confidence to serve in the music ministry of her church.

Along with music, Ruffin had a passion for speech and drama. While she lacked opportunities to pursue this passion in elementary school, she joined the Forensics Club in high school. In the club, they performed dramatic readings for regional and state competitions. In addition, high school provided Ruffin opportunities to participate in productions such as The Sound of Music. Through her work in music and drama, she prepared herself for her undergraduate studies at Maranatha where she majored in music (voice) and minored in interpretive speech.

For her graduate studies, Ruffin attended Bob Jones University. Along with her academics, she worked in the costume department for the school. Having learned to sew at the age of twelve, she used her skill to create costumes for BJU’s productions. She also designed period hairstyles for all university stage plays. She graduated with a master’s degree in Fine Arts, which combined her love for music and drama.

After Graduation

Ruffin's dramatic side

After completing her studies at BJU, Ruffin moved several times and worked different jobs. In 1976, she joined Maranatha’s faculty. For a year and a half, she taught voice and speech classes, led the Academy choir, and directed Richard Sheridan’s The Rivals for the Academy. She then moved to Florida to teach at Pensacola Christian College. Three years later, she moved to Greenville, South Carolina. While there, she worked at a local radio station where, in addition to other jobs, she read public service announcements. One of them advertised a community theater, which sparked Ruffin’s interest. After going through tryouts, she was cast as Tessa in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers, which provided her with inspiration for when she would return to Maranatha’s drama department years later.

In January 1985, Ruffin moved to Watertown, WI. “I always knew that I would eventually come back to Maranatha,” she said. “I just let the Lord lead me where He would.” Upon her return, the first play she directed was a reprise production of The Rivals, a first of numerous productions that she would direct for Maranatha.


As a faculty member at Maranatha, Ruffin played a key role in supporting the drama department during its early years. While most drama productions delegate stage direction, music direction, and choreography to separate people, Ruffin performed these jobs by herself. In addition, she took on several roles in the school plays.Performing at MBU Artist Series

Ruffin also influenced the variety of plays that Maranatha now performs. In the early days, Maranatha kept their repertoire to works by Shakespeare; however, Ruffin recalled her years in Greenville where she performed a Gilbert and Sullivan play in the community theater. With Gilbert and Sullivan’s work being in the public domain, Ruffin proposed to the Cedarholms that Maranatha perform a Gilbert and Sullivan musical, and they loved the idea. “When Maranatha was trying to keep solvent financially,” Ruffin explained, “it was a way to do a splashy show but not have to pay thousands of dollars for performing rights.” In later years, they also added religious plays such as Ben-Hur.

Since then, Ruffin has directed numerous plays and musicals for Maranatha. Some of her recent productions include The Pirate of Penzance, Thief of Hearts, Music Man, Arsenic and Old Lace, and You Can’t Take It With You. While a play occurs every semester, Maranatha performs a musical about once every two years. In the fall 2020 semester, Ruffin worked as the Music Director in the most recent musical, Beauty and the Beast. Currently, she is preparing students for the Spring 2023 play, Seven Keys to Baldpate.


As the school’s Coordinator of Vocal Instruction, Ruffin teaches singers to communicate in a way that makes the listener feels as if the singer is communicating directly to them. When practicing a song, a singer works to create what Ruffin calls “the illusion of the first time,” which involves singing the words with sincerity and thoughtfulness. To do this, Ruffin encourages singers to think about the words, to use good eye contact, and to remember that the goal of singing is not promoting yourself but performing ministry. Having taught Fundamentals of Public Speaking in the past, Ruffin added that these principles apply not only to singing but also to public speaking. Ultimately, she considers direct, genuine communication as the hallmark of effective music and speech.Ruffin

Many of her vocal students have shared personal stories about their experiences with Ruffin. Ben Clore shared how Ruffin worked as his first professional teacher and how her personal experience helped him grow musically. “I’m a better singer now that I’ve taken lessons under Mrs. Ruffin,” shares Clore.

Jonathan Andrews thanked her for pushing him out of his comfort zone and praised her for her storytelling, language skills, enthusiasm, and passion for God. “I feel that I can speak for many when I say that my life would not be the same without Mrs. Ruffin,” he said.

Noting Ruffin’s thoughtful and genuine spirit during each lesson, Emma Bateman shared how Ruffin reminds her to contemplate the text of hymns and to remember the purpose of singing them is to glorify God. Bateman expresses her gratitude by stating, “I am grateful for Mrs. Ruffin and the patience and encouragement she shows.”

Allysa Willis praised Ruffin for her cheerfulness both inside and outside of her classes, her ability to offer kind and constructive criticism, her sincerity when asking how her student’s days have gone, and her encouragement to others through mentioning God in conversations and through simply being herself. “She sees the world through a biblical lens, and that has been the most impactful thing about her to me,” Willis said.

Cooking Show

Ruffin stays active outside the walls of Maranatha in both the community and in her church. Notably, many throughout the community view her television program, Carol’s Kitchen. This show serves as an outlet not only for Ruffin’s cooking skills, but also for her passion for God. Along with her favorite recipes, Carol shares personal stories, such as the time that she and her brother accepted Christ after family devotions. As she tells her stories, she includes a biblical application and presents an original Scripture chorus that contains that application. “They’re hearing the Bible, and the Lord promises that’s not going to return void,” Ruffin said. “I think that they’ll come away saying, ‘that makes sense!’” By sharing these stories and songs on television, Ruffin makes biblical truths understandable and applicable to people who may never enter a church.

Life Lessons

Ruffin offers valuable lessons that have influenced her life. First, Ruffin encourages glorifying God in all that we do. In the world, Ruffin sees people placing too much emphasis on glorifying self. In the life-long struggle against our egos, Ruffin advises submitting to God and exalting Him over ourselves. “Lifting Him up is what is important in what we do,” Ruffin insists. This applies not only to music, but also to whatever responsibility God gives.

Second, Ruffin encourages letting God work as we follow Him. While her family loved music, she assumed that she only did music for fun and that it would not develop into a career. Instead, she considered following her mother’s footsteps by becoming as a nurse. However, she learned over time that God had something else in store. Today, Ruffin realizes that working in the music ministry of her church as a child, performing in the Forensics Club and dramatic productions as a high-schooler, and participating in community theater as an adult were God’s ways of preparing her for her work at Maranatha. While the things we do may not feel like career preparation, Ruffin’s life illustrates that the activities we do in church, in school, or in our community can be God’s way of leading us into His calling for our lives.

Finally, she encourages putting effort into all our pursuits. Personally, Ruffin avoids dwelling on the past, whether good or bad. Instead, she puts herself completely into whatever task that God has given her in the present. “I give a hundred percent with whatever I’m working on,” she said. “When that is over, I move to the next thing and give that one hundred percent.” While she thanks God for the career He has given her, she avoids reveling over past accomplishments and prefers moving on to another project. With her continual activity at Maranatha and beyond, she shows no signs of slowing down.