Wanda Russo donates $1 million gift to Fairfield University in memory of her late husband Dr. Robert D. Russo, Sr.


Image: Wanda Russo and Fr KelleyMrs. Wanda Russo of Fairfield Beach Road, Fairfield, has made a $1 million gift to Fairfield University to honor the memory of her late husband, Robert D. Russo, Sr., M.D. Dr. Russo was the former chairman of the Department of Radiology at St. Vincent's Medical Center and served as a member of the University's Board of Trustees.

In recognition of the gift, Fairfield University will establish the Robert D. Russo, Sr. Scholarship Fund for pre-med students who otherwise would not have the financial resources to attend Fairfield University.

The announcement was made today by Rev. Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., president of Fairfield University, who said, "The University is fortunate to have had such a long and valued friendship with the Russo family." The gift is part of "Our Promise: The Campaign for Fairfield University," a comprehensive $100 million fundraising effort which was announced in September.

Father Kelley added, "I could not be more pleased to have Bob's name so visibly and permanently associated with Fairfield and the education of future generations of doctors. I only hope they will become the kind of people, personally and professionally, that he was."

Fairfield University has close to 200 pre-med students presently enrolled who take the majority of their classes in the Bannow Science Center, which is currently being expanded by a $15 million, 44,000 square foot addition. The Russo Scholars especially will benefit from this enhanced science center which will house five new labs and multimedia classrooms with the latest technology. These improvements will provide the "best practices" in science pedagogy - including experiential hands-on learning, accommodate a "scientific team" approach to projects, and increase opportunities for collaborative faculty-student research.

Dr. Russo, who died in 1999, was a longtime friend and benefactor of Fairfield University. Among the many generous contributions he and his wife made were the altar and some of the stained glass windows in the University's Egan Chapel of St. Ignatius of Loyola. A graduate of Fordham and Georgetown Universities, he always credited his Jesuit education with giving him the values to live by and for fostering his lifelong love of learning.

Mrs. Wanda Russo reflected, "Bob would be very, very happy with this gift to the University since he became so involved at its inception and held it in such high regard. He was extremely education-oriented and wanted to see the school grow. In addition, he was very fond of Father Kelley and greatly admired the job Father has done for the University and the community."

Dr. Russo built a distinguished 47-year career as a radiologist but he always loved to teach and kept pace with his rapidly expanding field by founding the education center at St. Vincent's, which is responsible for the continuing education of staff and doctors. He brought his love of teaching to Fairfield University where he served on the Board of Trustees from 1988 to 1994 and also on its Student Affairs Committee.

In addition, Dr. Russo was past president of the Medical Staff at St. Vincent's Medical Center, past president of the Connecticut State Radiology Society, a member of the Eastern Society of Radiologists and a Fellow of the American College of Radiology. He was a former board member and a founder of the Lafayette Bank and Trust Company, and served on the Board of Trustees of St. Vincent's Medical Center and the United Illuminating Company.

He was also a Knight of St. Gregory and a major supporter of the American Red Cross and the City of Bridgeport. The park located at the intersection of Washington and Park Avenues in Bridgeport is named in his honor.

Dr. Russo's son, Dr. Bob Russo, Jr., who followed his father's path into medicine as well as his specialty of radiology, added, "This gift is so appropriate to honor my father's memory because education was his passion, not only for his own children but also for his co-workers." Dr. Russo, Jr. noted that his dad founded several technological schools at St. Vincent's including diagnostic radiology, nuclear medicine, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging. In addition, more than 100 physicians have graduated from his Radiology Residence Program.

In fact, Dr. Russo was so committed to education that his children Richard Russo, Arlyne Russo and Bob Jr. said there were two phrases their dad often used to sum up his philosophy: "There is no substitute for daily preparation; and, Fame and fortune may come and go, but no one can ever take away your education."

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on January 23, 2001

Vol. 33, No. 102