Russell dedicated to PSU Altoona’s success


George Russell was involved in many community activities, loved Altoona Curve baseball and in his professional life was known for keeping his eye on the ball for students at Penn State Altoona.

Russell, 82, passed away Friday at the Villa Personal Care Home and Interim Hospice Service of Johnstown.

He worked as director of student affairs at the Penn State Altoona Campus from 1968 until his retirement in 1994, after starting at University Park in 1963 as assistant to the dean of men.

At that time he started at the Altoona campus, it was growing with new residence halls.

Dave Kimmel was former director of university relations for Penn State Altoona when Russell arrived from the main campus.

“It was a period of great, rapid growth,” Kimmel said. “It was awesome to have George because of his experience at University Park.

“He could be stern but had an open door. Students really appreciated that, especially the student government. Enrollment was rapidly growing. He was always there to listen and do what was right.”

One of the activities Russell thoroughly enjoyed was chairing committees for awarding student scholarships, Kimmel said.

“He was dedicated to needs of students,” he said.

Russell had a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Bucknell University, a master’s degree in education counseling from Penn State and completed the course work and comprehensive exams for a doctorate in higher education administration from Penn State.

Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry knew Russell well.

“When I first joined the Penn State Altoona family in 1985, George was the director of student affairs,” Bechtel-Wherry said. “He was a tireless advocate for students and was dedicated to the success of Penn State Altoona. He made a positive impact on the lives of countless students.

“On behalf of our Penn State Altoona family, I extend my sympathy to his family for their loss.”

Russell had been a member of the Altoona Rotary, chairman for several Chamber of Commerce committees, past master with the Masonry, a member of the board of directors for numerous community organizations and college scholarship committees and a past elder at the Ward Avenue Presbyterian Church.

In a reflection of her father, Jenny Russell Long wrote: “My dad loved being an Altoona Curve baseball season ticket holder and always talked about the talent, heart and drive of the Curve players and how lucky Altoona was to have such an amazing ballpark.”

Instead of a funeral, Russell made arrangements to have a celebration of life picnic at an Altoona Curve game on Sunday, June 30 when the Curve face the Binghamton Mets at 6 p.m. with fireworks to follow.

In addition, the H. George Russell Memorial Community and Social Activity Fund is being created to help people of all ages with disabilities and financial constraints get out into the community, including Altoona Curve games.

The fund will be set up by the nonprofit organization The Center for Independent Living of South Central Pa. that serves Blair, Bedford, Cambria, Fulton, Huntingdon and Indiana counties.

Mirror Staff Writer Russ O’Reilly is at 946-7435.