By Christina Masciere Wallace • Photography by Gordon Wenzel
Jean Russell had never set foot on campus until April, when a special mission drew her to Bucknell. She came bearing news of gifts: A recent $4.7 million gift from the Russell family estate is being used to finish Academic West and bolster the endowed library fund named for her late brother, James A. Russell '67.
The visit was a roundabout introduction to the University for Jean, whose family is rooted in Chicago. James, her only sibling, graduated with degrees in English and history, and enjoyed a successful career in the printing business. In 1994, he suffered a massive heart attack. Their father, James R. Russell, wanted to honor the memory and legacy of his son. In 1997, he established the James A. Russell Memorial Book Fund for the purchase of library materials, lectures and programs. But the senior Russell, who died in 2011, had much more in store for the University.
"Dad always had Bucknell in his will," Jean Russell says. "His bequest was to be held in trust until my death and then distributed. But I wanted to see this money help others sooner rather than later."
The idea of supporting Academic West, the first new academic building constructed at Bucknell in nearly a decade, held special appeal for Jean, a retired professor of endocrinology who taught at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. "It's very exciting," she says. "It's a versatile space that will serve Bucknell for decades to come."
After touring the nearly completed facility, Jean chose to name the first-floor commons and adjacent conference room, both of which adjoin green space and a covered terrace, in honor of her late parents and brother. This spot, she says, will best accommodate "a lot of good conversation" between faculty and students.
"We are extremely grateful for Jean's decision to share her family's gift now," says Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Scott Rosevear. "This is the capstone that completes funding for Academic West and really begins the transformation of space across campus."
Although most of the gift will benefit Academic West, a portion will support the endowed library fund started by her father. Jean's first trip to Bucknell included a library tour, where she was delighted to learn that part of the Russell funding has been used to purchase rare original manuscript leaves and prints dating to the 14th century for the Special Collections/University Archives within the Bertrand Library. Coincidentally, her brother had enjoyed collecting first editions of rare books and was keenly interested in history and literature.
"Studying original works of art is critical to the education of our students. No reproductions can ever replace this experience," says Christiane Andersson, professor of art history. "The woodcuts, engravings and etchings in the Russell group are either single sheets or illustrations in printed books. They were all selected for their importance in the history of book and manuscript production. We use these pieces in numerous classes in the Department of Art and Art History. This certainly would have appealed to James Russell's interest and expertise in the printing world."
Jean enjoyed examining samples of these works during her library visit. And thanks to her decision to share her family's estate now, she'll see her Academic West gift fulfill its potential this fall when she returns to campus with her husband, Bob Childers.
"We were so impressed by Bucknell's hospitality and its close interaction with alumni and friends during our visit," she says. "I look forward to coming back and seeing the University's vision for Academic West fulfilled."