Junior Drum Major Working to Overcome Serious Illness

The Marching Wolves perform ESPN during the halftime show at the home football game against Edna Karr on Sept. 4, 2015, led by Drum Majors Ruston Keller (left) and Dustin Simoneaux (right).

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Junior Drum Major Ruston Keller (photo by Joey Michel)

Junior Drum Major Ruston Keller
(photo by Joey Michel)

(COVINGTON, La.) — Anyone watching St. Paul’s junior Ruston Keller as he dances around as the SPS Junior Drum Major would never know that he is recovering from surgery and battling the debilitating and potentially life-threatening disease, ulcerative colitis.

Keller says that his motivation for fighting this illness has to do with his involvement in St. Paul’s, especially the Marching Wolves and AFJROTC. Although Keller has struggled through this difficult challenge in his life, he has always been supported by St. Paul’s and its student body.

“It’s hard to put into words,” says President Bro. Ray Bullard, FSC. “The emotions that the school along with the Keller family endure during Ruston’s serious health challenges are enormous.”

Despite the challenges, Keller has returned to the SPS campus after many tribulations following three rounds of intensive surgery since May, which kept him hospitalized for most of the summer.

Members of the Marching Wolves visit Junior Drum Major Ruston Keller at Ochsner Hospital over the summer. The band performed for Ruston in a show of support for his second surgery to take place the following day. He has since had a third surgery and has one more left to go. (photo courtesy Marching Wolves)

Members of the Marching Wolves visit Junior Drum Major Ruston Keller at Ochsner Hospital over the summer. The band performed for Ruston and other patients in a show of support for his second surgery to take place the following day. He has since had a third surgery and has a fourth scheduled for later this year. (photo courtesy Marching Wolves)

“It was a struggle to recuperate and get back to how I was before,” Keller said. “It’s still a challenge to physically function like I did before, especially in the marching band, but I’m just taking it one step at a time.”

The change has been particularly hard on Keller because he is an active member of the St. Paul’s community. He is involved in ROTC, Quiz Bowl, and National Honor Society, along with many other organizations. His loftiest position is that of Junior Drum Major of the Marching Wolves.

“We are really happy that Ruston has returned to us after his time in surgery,” said Band Director Andrew Moran. “I can’t wait to see what the year has in store for him.”

Although he has faced three rounds of surgery and still has one more to go, Keller is extremely optimistic and is never brooding over what has happened. Instead, he prefers to smile and enjoys his time at SPS, shown by the punny “semi-colon” shirts he can often be seen wearing, referring to the removal of some of his colon in a prior surgery. Many of these shirts have been gifted to him by various St. Paul’s students as a show of support.

“I stand in awe of Ruston and how he has handled this crisis in his young adult life,” said Bro. Ray. “I’m also so proud of the entire St. Paul’s community as it rallied around Ruston and offered all kinds of support. I’m also very glad he has returned and wish him the best of luck as he enters his final round of surgery.”

Keller’s next abdominal surgery is scheduled in just under a week for Sept. 29.

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For more information, watch the Wolf-to-Wolf interview
with Andy Smith and Ruston Keller:

Video Credits:
  • Wolf-to-Wolf: SPS Media Production Class
  • Marching Wolves: Christi Simoneaux

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  1. SPS Student Media Receives State, National Honors | The Paper Wolf - September 14, 2016

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