Retired Scholar Caps Off Legacy With Major Bequest

For Professor Charles Russell, who retired in 2011 after 34 years of service, leaving a legacy at Rutgers-Newark is all in a day’s work.

As a scholar of 20th-century American and French avant-garde literature—and of 20th-century “outsider” art—he created a body of work that has resonated in his various fields. As an administrator who wore many hats during his long tenure, he helped implement many of the changes that have catapulted the campus into the modern era, making Rutgers-Newark a world-class research institution while deepening its connections to the city of Newark and expanding opportunities for low-income students.

It’s not surprising, then, that Russell and his wife, Alison Weld, former director of the Paul Robeson Art Gallery, decided to leave a different kind of legacy: a bequest of nearly a quarter of a million dollars to Rutgers-Newark, whose effects will be felt for generations.

“We have no children and have saved some money. What do you leave behind?” says Russell. “What’s been personally engaging for us? It’s been this place, Rutgers-Newark. I’ve loved working here and watching it grow.”

Their bequest commits $100,000 to create student fellowships in the American Studies graduate program and $100,000 to the Clement A. Price Endowment for the Humanities, with the remainder going to the John Cotton Dana Library Endowment Fund and the Paul Robeson Gallery.

It was a fitting way to end his academic career, leaving a legacy in the form of a bequest.

“The Institute [of Ethnicity, Culture and the Modern Experience] is a unique place. Long after Clem [Price] and I are gone, I’d like to support its work,” says Russell, who helped develop the institute with Price.

“And the American Studies program, which I helped found and directed for a time, was 19 years in the making,” he says. “I loved working with the graduate students, and I believe every strong Ph.D. program should give its students full four-year support. I just felt we needed to do that.”


To read the original story this was exerpted from, see the NCAS Spring 2012 Newsletter.