Dr. George Russell, 1921-2016

UMKC Chancellor 1977-1991

Dr. George Russell, longtime Chancellor of the University of Missouri-Kansas City and later president of the University of Missouri System, died Dec. 27 at the age of 95.

Russell had been serving as vice chancellor for research and dean of the Graduate College at the University of Illinois when he was appointed UMKC Chancellor by the UM System Board of Curators on Sept. 8, 1977. He served until July 1991, when he was appointed president of the UM System.

Russell’s tenure as Chancellor marked a period of dramatic growth and progress for UMKC. He presided over the university’s transformation from a commuter school to a true research university.

“Under George Russell’s leadership, UMKC evolved into the modern, comprehensive, research university it is today,” said UMKC Chancellor Leo E. Morton. “Thanks to him, Kansas City has a great university worthy of a great city. It is a powerful legacy.”

Milestones during the Russell era included the launch of the School of Biological Sciences and the School of Nursing, now Nursing and Health Studies; a major expansion of the former General Library into what is now the Miller Nichols Library; the incorporation of the Missouri Repertory Theatre, now Kansas City Repertory Theatre, as an independent non-profit entity; UMKC’s move to Division I athletics; the opening of the Performing Arts Center, the School of Law building and the campus preschool, now the Berkley Child and Family Development Center, all in 1979; construction of a 17,000-square-foot addition to the Henry W. Bloch Heritage Hall, then known as Oxford Hall; the expansion of Swinney Recreation Center; conversion of the former Nelson Elementary School into Grant Hall; and conversion of the former Lynn Insurance Building into the Administrative Center.

Michael Middleton, interim president of the University of Missouri System, issued the following statement:

“I am saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. George Russell, who served both as UM System president and UMKC chancellor. Dr. Russell’s decisive leadership greatly strengthened the university. Most notably under his tenure, the university introduced a robust financial plan to realign its resources on a scale unmatched in the country. His efforts allowed the UM System to answer critical needs including competitive faculty recruitment, infrastructure maintenance and repair and enhancement of student financial aid, among many others. His legacy of public stewardship remains strong in Missouri higher education.”

Services are scheduled for Friday Dec. 30 at Langsford Funeral Home, 115 W. 3rd Street, Lee’s Summit, MO.

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