F&M Wrestling Mourns Loss of Robert Russell

Robert Russell, long a stalwart of the Franklin & Marshall English Department and great friend of the wrestling team, died early on the morning of April 1.  

Russell was a 2000 Medal of Courage Recipient from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.  If you were to scan his credentials, you would find an impressive listing that includes the authorship of four books; a 35-year professorship at Franklin and Marshall College, and the distinction of having received the institution's first appointment in 1963 as a Charles A. Dana Professor. These goals were successfully achieved even though Robert Russell had lost his vision at the age of six. But the loss of vision was not to diminish the influence he would have on the academic world or for his love of the sport of wrestling.

Russell earned his Bachelor's degree from Yale University and enrolled at England's Oxford University in 1948. While at Oxford, he became a Rotary Fellow and a FulIbright Scholar. In 1955, he accepted a teaching position at Franklin and Marshall College where he remained as an English professor until 1990, having served as department chair from 1965 to 1973.

It was one day in 1955 that Russell found himself in the Franklin and Marshall gymnasium. Remembering his wrestling days at Yale, he set out to find the college's wrestling room so that he might engage in some exercise. It was there that he found coach Roy Phillips, and the two of them began exercising together, using the sport of wrestling as their mutual motivation. Russell quickly became an ardent fan of the college wrestling program and one of its most active supporters. His passion for wrestling is best summed up in his own words: "In wrestling, I was in charge -- really in charge -- and it felt good. I felt somehow free, strong and free."

The family plans a Remembrance at the college’s Nevin Chapel on Saturday, April 9, 2011, at 11:00 a.m. with a reception to follow in the Academy Room of Fackenthal Library.