SCSU Today

A penny saved

Monday, September 1, 2008

Vera Russel and Kate Steffens

Vera Russel and Kate Steffans, dean of the College of Education


A graduate and longtime friend of the university – who never earned more than $27,000 – has become the St. Cloud State College of Education’s first $1 million benefactor.

Before her death at age 92, Vera Russell ’35 ’40 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 farm land is valued at approximately $1 million. With previous gifts, her total giving to the College of Education is just over $1.2 million

A gift of farm land in 2005 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 a 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.

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 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.

Never married, Russell outlived four siblings and inherited their wealth, managing those assets and her own until her death.

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