Russell's impact profound for Tech's Alumni Association
By Matthew Winston
Spectrum Volume 20 Issue 26 - April 2, 1998
George E. "Buddy" Russell will receive this year's 1998 Alumni Distinguished Service Award. The honor is fittingly bestowed upon Russell, as he served Tech's Alumni Association for more than 27 years, retiring in 1995 as vice president for alumni relations.
Russell joined the Virginia Tech Alumni Association in 1968 as director of alumni affairs. He oversaw the creation of new alumni activities as thousands of new Hokie graduates joined alumni ranks after rapid university expansion from the 1960s through the 1980s. He then served as president of the then-independent Alumni Association for 10 years, before alumni relations became an integral component of the university in 1991. Russell was then named vice president.
Tech's alumni base grew from 30,000 members to more than 130,000 members during Russell's tenure. Since his retirement, Russell has continued to work for Virginia Tech through New Dimensions, the university's retired emeriti faculty organization, the New River Valley Alumni Chapter, and the Class of 1952.
"Buddy was one of the early mentors in my career who had a long-lasting effect. He emphasized integrity and was the epitome of professionalism," said Charles Ward, who served as a protégé under Russell, and is now vice president for institutional advancement at Newberry College in South Carolina. "Buddy had a profound effect on me and I credit my success to his tutelage."
Current Alumni Vice President Tom Tillar said, "Not only is Buddy regarded affectionately by our alumni for his long service as head of our Alumni Association, but also by his peers in the profession of alumni programming. He helped shape the chapter and reunion programs and the early annual-giving program that continue to benefit and strengthen the university today."
Russell earned a bachelor's degree from Virginia Tech in 1953, after which he spent a few years in the military. He was a National 4-H fellow at the University of Maryland, where he earned a master's degree, and has received fellowships from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the national extension center for advanced studies at the University of Wisconsin, where he earned his doctorate.
Russell joined Virginia Tech as an assistant county agent with the Cooperative Extension Service. He later became a professor and director of resources development and home economics before becoming the alumni affairs director in 1968.
Russell says he decision to come to Virginia Tech was influenced by his father's desire to also attend the university to study agriculture. At age 10, Russell decided to live out his father's dream--a dream that was reinforced by Russell's involvement in the 4-H Club.