‘Childhood playground’ becomes family legacy for donor

The moment Charliss Russ lost her father in January 2013, it crystallized for her the urgency of doing something she had set out to do some time ago.

“I always had in the back of my mind what I would set aside financially and where it was going to go,” Russ said.

Charliss giftContemplating her own eventual passing, Russ said there were several places she had considered leaving her own estate. Then it occurred to her she might meet the greatest needs by looking no further than her own former backyard.

“UALR was my childhood playground,” said Russ, explaining the home of her youth was located at the corner of 29th and Taylor Streets, near the UALR campus.

Eventually, UALR represented not just a “playground,” but a place for learning. Professors at what was then called Little Rock Junior College taught the nursing students at St. Vincent Infirmary.

“My mother was a nursing student at the St. Vincent Infirmary School of Nursing, Class of 1951,” said Russ.

And Russ herself became a first-generation, non-traditional student at UALR who worked her way through an undergraduate and graduate degree while simultaneously working at St. Vincent.

She says she wanted to honor her parents’ memory and also the valuable education she received at UALR. Leaving the entirety of her estate to the university, she has endowed no fewer than six scholarships (two named for her father, two for her mother, and two in her own name).

With an endowment of $15,000 each, the first Russ scholarships will be awarded in fall semester 2015. The newly endowed scholarships are:

  • The Francis Alan “Pete” Russ Greatest Need Endowment for the benefit of Management
  • The Francis Alan “Pete” Russ Management Scholarship
  • Hazel Kriegbaum Russ Greatest Need Endowment for the benefit of Nursing
  • Hazel Kriegbaum Russ Nursing Scholarship
  • Charliss Russ Greatest Need Endowment for the benefit of Marketing and Advertising
  • Charliss Russ Marketing and Advertising Scholarship

“Before she passed away, I talked it over with mom, and she was so pleased,” said Russ. “I knew I had made the right decision to honor my parents with a variety of scholarships, each reflecting their lives and their passion.”

Find information about how to establish a planned gift at UALR.

More about the Russ family

Francis Alan (Pete) Russ
Feb. 4, 1925 – Jan. 7, 2013

Francis Alan (Pete) Russ dropped out of high school to serve in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His ship, the USS Goss, was a member of the fleet in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered to General Douglas MacArthur. After completing his military service, Russ earned his GED and began his vocation as a sheet metal worker. On Dec. 8, 1951, he married Hazel Louise Kriegbaum, and in 1954, they purchased a home on the southeast corner of 29th and Taylor streets (when Taylor Street was the western boundary of the Little Rock city limits). There they raised their two children, Charliss Marie Russ and Louis Alan Russ. He retired from Alcoa after 30 years.

Hazel Louise Kriegbaum Russ
March 23, 1931 – Aug. 18, 2013

Hazel Louise Kriegbaum Russ was a 1948 graduate of Bryant High School and a 1951 graduate of St. Vincent Infirmary, where professors from Little Rock Junior College taught the nursing students. During her professional career, she served as an office, staff, and surgical nurse, and she retired in 1989 after 38 years of devoted service to the profession she loved.

Charliss Marie Russ
Dec. 9, 1952 –

Charliss Marie Russ is a 1970 graduate of Little Rock Central High and, as a first-generation college student, attended UALR for a few semesters after high school. While working full-time at St. Vincent Infirmary, she returned to UALR as a part-time student to earn a bachelor of business administration degree in marketing in 1997 and an MBA degree in 2000. In addition to 25 years with St. Vincent, she has worked for Heifer International and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

UALR Distinguished Alumni, Presidents Award winners to be honored May 15

Chief People Officer Pamela Culpepper of the global communications giant, Golin, is the recipient of the 2015 Distinguished Alumni Award at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

The award is the highest honor given by the UALR Alumni Association.

Culpepper will receive her award at a luncheon honoring her and other award recipients beginning at 11:30 a.m., Friday, May 15, at the William J. Clinton Presidential Library.

Courtesy Daily Record
Photo of Pamela Culpepper courtesy of  The Daily Record

Joining her will be the UALR 2015 Presidents Award winner, Martha Stephenson, an award bestowed on individuals with career success and a profound dedication to the university. Also being honored is the winner of this year’s Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award, Saad Azam. The award is given to an outstanding graduating senior who has demonstrated excellence in scholarship, leadership, citizenship, and character.

The event is hosted by the UALR Foundation Fund Board and the UALR Alumni Association.

More about the honorees

Pamela Culpepper

At PepsiCo Inc., Culpepper served as senior vice president and global diversity and inclusion officer. For the bulk of her career, she worked in human resources for the company, which enabled her to live in major cities around the U. S.

Most recently, she was named Chief People Officer of Golin, a global communications firm with about 700 employees and 34 offices around the world. In her role, Culpepper seeks to cultivate the company’s most important asset, happy and engaged employees.

Culpepper was working full time at a local investment firm when she realized advancing her education would afford her more opportunities. Never one to shy away from hard work, Culpepper enrolled in school full time even as she continued to work.

Upon graduation with a B.A. degree in psychology in 1988, she decided to take a leap and move to California, where she began a career in human resources working for Wells Fargo. While in California, Culpepper pursued graduate school at California State University-Hayward and received her masters degree in public administration with an emphasis in organizational leadership. Most of Culpepper’s family still resides in Little Rock, including her mother whom she says was a tremendous influence.

Martha Stephenson
Stephenson is no stranger to accolades. She graduated from UALR with a bachelor’s degree in history and English in 1972, the same year she was named winner of the Whitbeck Memorial Award. She earned her juris doctorate from the UALR Bowen School of Law in 1978.

Stephenson recently spearheaded the efforts to create a courtyard with benches and extra green space near the UALR Ottenheimer Library in celebration of the Chi Omega Sorority’s 50th anniversary as a chapter. Named the Chi Omega Plaza, Stephenson oversaw fundraising of more than $28,000 for a student sitting area and courtyard. The area will be complete in May, a full year after the 50th anniversary. The landscaping is entering its second phase, and a dedication will be held on May 31.

Stephenson also served on the UALR Foundation Fund board for six years and is an active member of the UALR Alumni Association, recently sponsoring a table at the annual Taste of Little Rock event.The Martha Sawrie Stephenson Endowed Scholarship is held in her honor at UALR. It is awarded to a full-time or part-time student who is a declared major in English, history, or political science.

Saad Azam
Azam is only the second Arkansan ever invited back to NASA for multiple internships. Born and raised in Pakistan until he was 14, Azam graduates as a UALR Donaghey Scholar and Science Scholar. Azam interned at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology and has been offered a permanent position after graduation.

He is a double major in chemistry and biology, and he received a NASA Workforce Development Fellowship to intern at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, where he worked on solid-state electrochemistry and chemical physics. The following year Azam was hired for a second internship where he helped develop rechargeable, high energy, aqueous metal hydride-air batteries for electric vehicles. He will return a third time to continue his work at NASA this summer.

He received a $6,500 statewide undergraduate research fellowship grant from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. His research was published in the Journal of Applied Polymer Science. Winner of the National American Chemical Society chapter award, College of Science leadership award, and Chemistry Department award, Azam and his work have contributed to the future of STEM in Arkansas.

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UALR Campus Campaign kicks off

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