Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ

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Charitable gift to Ohio University’s engineering and technology college grows to $124 million

Gift is largest to any public engineering college in US

The groundbreaking 2008 estate bequest of $95 million to Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology has yielded an additional $29 million, thanks to a high-tech engineering and manufacturing company’s recent acquisition.

The Russ Gift -- the largest charitable donation to any public engineering college in the United States -- included shares of YSI, Inc. A leading developer and manufacturer of sensors, instruments, software, and data collection platforms for environmental water monitoring, YSI was recently acquired by ITT – bringing the total received from the Russes from $95 million to $124 million.

Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin says that a part of him wasn’t surprised when he learned the news.

"This is yet another outstanding example of Fritz’s foresight in engineering and technology applications, because Fritz likely invested in YSI in the 1950s," he noted. "It’s incredibly humbling to realize how much Fritz and Dolores trusted in, and believed in the promise of, the students, faculty and staff of the Russ College to have chosen us for this legacy."

The Russes’ first gift to Ohio University was in 1962, for $25. They are the top historical donors at Ohio University, with more than $132 million in lifetime giving. Endowments established through the Russes’ giving have provided approximately $2.5 million in funds for the Russ College each year. With the addition of these new funds, this annual spending allocation will grow to more than $4 million.

 "Fritz and Dolores Russ imagined a college that is visionary in its planning and purposeful in implementing the best student-centered engineering education experience in the country," said Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis. "Theirs is a transformational legacy that has forever changed the face and the heart of the Russ College while lifting up the engineering and technology professions and their profound effect on the human condition."

In response to the 2008 gift, McDavis, Irwin, and Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit convened engineering and technology leaders to advise on strategic areas of investment and develop a long-term plan.

The Russ Vision Plan focuses investments in four areas -- students, faculty, physical infrastructure, and personnel and prominence. Implementation across these areas has already reaped benefits with new scholarships, professorships, faculty support and improved teaching. (See sidebar for details).
Targeted research areas supported by the plan are energy and the environment, which builds on expertise in alternative fuels, clean coal technologies, and oil and gas pipeline corrosion; air and ground transportation infrastructure, which builds on expertise in aviation navigation and civil engineering; and biomolecular diagnostics and therapeutics.

"This is a highly targeted, measurable, long-range, strategic plan that fits perfectly with Fritz’s well-known propensity for planning 25 years ahead. He conceived of the Russ Prize decades before creating it," Irwin said. "We in the Russ College take this model seriously and are committed to continued, thoughtful planning for long windows of opportunity."

The Russes’ legacy is benefiting Ohio University’s The Promise Lives Campaign with $114 million in support for the Russ College. The balance fulfilled a prior $10 million commitment. The Promise Lives Campaign will raise $450 million in support of students, faculty, programs, facilities and outreach by 2015.

About the Russes
The Russes dedicated their lives to engineering and engineering education. Early in his career at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., Fritz, a 1942 electrical engineering graduate of Ohio University, helped build the world’s first high-voltage, RF-generated power supply -- later used in every television set.

The company they founded in 1950 near Dayton, Ohio, Systems Research Laboratories (SRL), grew into one of the world’s largest and most productive independent engineering and technology research firms.

Similarly, YSI was founded in 1948 by three individuals at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio – halfway between Dayton and Columbus.

As part of their effort to inspire future engineers and improve the human condition, the Russes also supported engineering programs and funded facilities at Wright State and Cedarville Universities. At Ohio University, they established the $500,000 Russ Prize, the leading bioengineering prize in the world. It is awarded by the National Academy of Engineering.

The Russ Gift in action

"In order to invest in an area, that area has to be of current and widespread interest, still in interest in 20-30 years, and one in which we already have a track record." – Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin

The strategic initiatives of the Russ Vision Plan and The Promise Lives Campaign for the Russ College of Technology and Engineering are already making a difference for …


  • New scholarships have increased the number of students who choose Ohio University over other institutions, resulting in an increase in enrollment

  • A new math instructor has improved student success rates by more than 60 percent


  • Matching funds enabled the hire of Ohio University’s fourth eminent scholar, Sunggyu “K.B.” Lee, Russ-Ohio Research Scholar in Coal Syngas Utilization, in 2010. Visit this link for more.

  • Two new Russ Professorships were created in 2010 and awarded to renowned scholars Gerardine Botte and Srdjan Nesic. Visit this link for more.


  • A new grant writer is assisting junior faculty and very productive senior faculty with finding and applying for leading grants

How a gift grows: A story of visionary giving

January 2008: The just-received Russ Gift of $80 million is announced during Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis’ State of the University address.

June 2008: The formal announcement of the Russ Gift is made at $95 million, including cash, securities, and property. It is the largest charitable gift to any public engineering college in the U.S.

October 2011:
The liquidation of securities grows the Russ Gift by $29 million, making the total gift amount $124 million.

The Russ Gift total: $124 million

Total Applied to The Russ College’s The Promise Lives Campaign: $114 million