St. Cloud State University Foundation
Million Dollar Benefactor
Vera Russell, St. Cloud State University's first $1 million benefactor. Inset - Russell's photo in the 1940 Talahi yearbook.
A graduate and longtime friend of St. Cloud State University – who never earned more than $27,000 a year – has become the College of Education’s first $1 million benefactor.
Before her death at age 92, Vera Russell ’35 ’40, most recently of Houston, Texas, generously thanked the college from which she earned the teaching certificate and bachelor’s degree that helped her become a teacher, principal, ham-radio operator and investor.
Russell’s 2008 gift of property is valued at approximately $1 million.With previous gifts, her total giving to the College of Education is just over $1.2 million.
Russell’s 2005 gift of farm land funded renovation of the College of Education’s Curriculum and Technology Center. Her 2008 gift of farm land and an individual retirement account will endow a graduate assistantship and curriculum fund for the Center, which will be renamed in her honor. Plans also call for creation of learning centers within the College of Education to enhance the educational environment for students and faculty as well as expansion of university/school/community partnerships.
"We are deeply grateful for Vera Russell's commitment to the College of Education as well as her passion for education,” said Kate Steffens, dean of the College of Education. “Because of Vera's generous gifts, her legacy and commitment will live on at St. Cloud State.”
Armed with a two-year teaching certificate from St. Cloud State Teachers College, Russell found a teaching job that paid her $300. The bachelor’s degree she later earned at St. Cloud State helped her advance to $1,450 for the 1942-43 school year. After World War II, Russell parlayed a master’s degree from the University of Michigan into a career as an elementary school principal. In 1977-78, her last full year as an educator, she earned $27,064.
“Vera Russell is a marvelous example of a student who came to St. Cloud State and realized her dreams and her professional ambition through education,” said President Earl H. Potter III. “We are grateful that her generous gifts and her inspiring success story will continue to help future students achieve their own personal goals.”
Russell, who died May 18, 2008, is buried in Montevideo, not far from the Chippewa County farm where she came of age between the world wars.