After serving in the United States Air Force as an early Computer Operator, Russ earned an undergraduate degree in Anthropology from the University of Memphis before receiving an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Sociology from Yale University. He was subsequently hired by the University’s Office of Institutional Research where he worked for nearly 30 years providing data analysis, impacting, among other things, the New Haven Promise for which he won the Elm Ivy Award.
Known by his colleagues as “the supreme statistician,” Russ also worked as a consultant for the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges and volunteered for the Bethany Democratic Party for eight years and for the award-winning Amity High School Theater Department for nine.
Russ’s crowning achievement–he would be the first to say–was marrying his soul mate, Laura Guastella, and raising their son and daughter. In marriage and fatherhood, he set the gold standard. He will be sorely missed by his family and a wide circle of friends for his hilarious quips, deep knowledge of all-things-computer, prowess at The New York Times crossword puzzle, and unfailingly good heart. Russ was the first to volunteer to be of service to others–values he instilled in his children. Whether it was digging a stranger’s car out of a ditch or helping a young person who’d lost a parent . . . he was always there–the family’s first responder.
Russ enjoyed golfing, playing the guitar, hiking, watching football (especially the Dallas Cowboys), musical theater, and early morning conversations with his wife, Laura. A transplant from Nashville, Russ brought a Southern flair to entertaining–his Super Bowl and White Trash parties were legendary. He organized a 60th surprise musical birthday party for his wife, which inspired a friend to surprise him the morning of the event by putting 60 pink flamingoes in their yard . . . just for fun.
Russ is survived by his soul mate of 44 years, Laura, and his loving children, Kenneth and Carson–both completing graduate degrees this May. He is also survived by his sister Sherry Adair of Dallas and brothers Lonnie and Curtis Adair of Maryville and Nashville, Tennessee. He will be missed as well by Sherry’s daughter, Leslie Torres, and her children, Renae and Spencer of Dallas and by Lonnie’s children, Tracy and Trevor as well as by his sisters-in-law Rita Guastella (married to Cornelius Forsythe) of Boston and Deborah McQueen (married to Jim Hutchins) of Livermore, California, and his nieces, Zoë Guastella and Erin McQueen.
Russ leaves a spectacularly wide circle of friends and colleagues. His life confirms the truth of an oft-quoted saying from his family’s holiday favorite, “The Muppet Christmas Carol”: . . . If you need to know the measure of a man, you simply count his friends.”
By this and every other measure, Russ was the chief among men.
In lieu of traditional calling hours, a celebration of Russ’s life will be held locally on June 10th. Invitations will be sent later this week. In honor of his memory, donations may be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama (www.splcenter.org) or Columbus House Inc. in New Haven (www.columbushouse.org).