Broad Reach, Deep Devotion
Jack Russell’s interest in community service grew from a strong religious faith, nurtured at Binghamton’s West Presbyterian Church. Jack and his wife, Mary, were true givers, says their son, Fred Russell. They didn’t care about receiving accolades; they just cared about making a difference that would last. “They wanted to make this community better for the next generation.”
Mary and Jack both grew up in Binghamton. Like his father, Jack made his career in the insurance industry, eventually becoming president of the Couper-Ackerman-Sampson Agency. He and Mary raised three children.
Jack played important leadership roles in many organizations. He served as: president of the Roberson Museum board and later head of the Roberson Foundation; president of the Binghamton University Foundation and founding member of the Harpur Forum; chairman of the Hoyt Foundation; and a founding member of the Board of the Community Foundation.
Health care was especially important to Jack. He served as president of the board of managers of Binghamton General Hospital and helmed the group that merged three local hospitals to form United Health Services. “UHS was my father’s baby,” Fred says. “He and everyone else on that committee worked incredibly hard.” Jack became founding chairman of UHS and later headed the UHS Foundation.
The Russells’ generosity also encompassed organizations that helped families and children. “My mother’s passion was the Children’s Home,” Fred says.
When Fred was growing up, his father devoted several evenings a week to meetings at church, where he was an elder, and meetings of the boards he served on. That activity began during the “Golden Years,” when everyone in Broome County seemed to be involved in community work, Fred says. “When that widespread involvement slowed down, my father said, ‘We have to make a stand here.’” Jack’s dedication to enhancing the quality of life in his home town never wavered.
As Jack and Mary started planning their estate, they decided to create a charitable fund through the Community Foundation, perpetuating their legacy of connection to many local organizations. “The Community Foundation can spread the support across the community, rather than directing it through just one avenue,” says Fred.
Mary Russell died in 2011 and Jack in 2013. Through the Jack and Mary Russell Fund at the Community Foundation, they will continue to serve the community they loved for generations to come.