[Pacific Lutheran Scene]
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-- Leadership & Service --
Russells receive honorary degrees, give address at May commencement

By Laurel Willoughby, Assistant Editor

Pacific Lutheran University bestowed honorary doctorates of humane letters on George and Jane Russell of Frank Russell Company at its commencement ceremony on May 23, where the Russells also gave the commencement address. The Russells were honored for their strong business ethic and leadership, along with their humanitarian principles and care for the community.

PLU awarded 530 diplomas - 500 bachelor's degrees and 30 master's degrees - at the ceremony. The Russells' degrees mark the 85th time in 50 years that PLU has bestowed honorary degrees and citations of honor to recognize significant achievements and dedication to education, religious service, professional fields, the arts and public service.

George and Jane Russell's honorary doctorates came in PLU's 50th year of bestowing such awards.
Photo: Chris Tumbusch
Photo: Chris Tumbusch
"I came away with the strong feeling that the meeting meant as much to George and Jane as it did to the students."

Member of a focus group of seniors the Russells met with in preparation for their commencement address.

George and Jane Russell's honorary doctorates came in PLU's 50th year of bestowing such awards.

In preparation for their talk on the theme of "Sound Bytes," the Russells came to campus early in May and spoke with an informal focus group of 10 seniors. Culled from a wide cross-section of majors, the students reflected on their time at PLU and discussed with George and Jane their feelings of preparedness for the future. In turn, the couple gave advice on venturing out into the work world.

"I came away with the strong feeling that the meeting meant as much to George and Jane as it did to the students," said focus group member and President's Office Assistant Karin Anderson '99, who double-majored in communications and Scandinavian studies. "Both groups seemed to be thinking, 'Wow - we're with some very amazing people.'"

The Russells are global visionaries who have made outstanding contributions to the business world, the local community and PLU. Although not PLU alumni, they have a deep connection to the university, and they reflect PLU's goal of educating for lives of leadership and service. In fact, it was Jane who spearheaded fundraising for construction of the $10 million Mary Baker Russell Music Center, named for George's mother.

The couple leads a growing economic development effort in Tacoma, and they are active supporters of education and the arts. In 1997, they jointly received the prestigious E. Donnall Thomas Medal of Achievement from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, recognizing their inspirational leadership and world vision.

The Russells helped launch and continue to support PLU's Family Enterprise Institute, which is dedicated to promoting and preserving family business in the Pacific Northwest, and which sponsors the Washington Family Business Awards. In 1997, Frank Russell Company received the Washington Family Business of the Year and the National Family Business of the Year awards, both in the large-business category.

Frank Russell Company is one of the world's leading investment-management and consulting firms. Over the past four decades, George has built Russell into one of the largest pension-fund consulting firms in the world. Today the company guides the investment strategies of 1,500 clients in 25 countries.

Jane Russell is corporate and community relations director of Frank Russell Company, and is credited as the architect of the company's corporate culture, known for fostering integrity in an environment of mutual trust and respect. She also was a key ingredient in developing Russell's award-winning programs for ethics, sabbaticals, employee wellness and education.

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