Barbara Russell is a 1968 graduate of Lesley with a great story and a generous spirit.
An extraordinary businesswoman, Barbara Russell helped build one company and started a second that yielded a record profit on its sale in 2004. Her husband, Gordon Russell, is a conservationist, and they have lived in New Hampshire surrounded by the area’s natural beauty for the past 38 years. After the successful sale of the business they formed the Russell Foundation to help New Hampshire landowners protect their land, with 5000 acres conserved so far. Barbara also wants to help her alma mater, and they have made plans to contribute to Lesley’s future through their bequest intention which will result in a transformative gift for student scholarships.
“My father, Samuel Weinstein, stressed the importance of giving back in a way that makes a difference. That’s one of the reasons Lesley was a perfect fit for me,” Barbara explains. “Now it’s my turn to give back, and I believe that the best way is to help students receive a quality education. With our bequest intention to Lesley we want to help make the University affordable for future generations of bright students with a promising future. It is our hope that they, in turn, will exhibit a passion and desire to take on the challenges in their generation.”
For the past several years Barbara Russell has contributed her time and talent to Lesley University as a Trustee. She continues to consult in the field of educational publishing and serves on several not-for-profit boards. Barbara first came to Lesley in 1964 when women’s roles were changing in society and on college campuses. Lesley women were pursuing careers, breaking down barriers, and aspiring to new heights. Barbara was one of those independent Lesley students, because her father had instilled in her the importance of being self-sufficient and having a career. She loved being in Cambridge and has wonderful memories of her student teaching experience. At graduation she was poised to be a teacher. After teaching for three and a half years, a different path stood in front of her to be the first employee of a young, start-up firm in Wellesley. She jumped at the opportunity.
For the next 19 years Barbara helped to build Curriculum Associates. She left in 1992 as Vice President of Sales and Marketing at the age of 45. Her great energy and passion for her work pushed her to take another chance. After raising the necessary funds from people in the publishing industry, she formed Options Publishing and firmly established her company as an authority in the field of supplemental educational publishing. Options Publishing developed materials for urban at-risk students in grades K – 8, serving such public school districts as New York City, Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles.
Barbara credits her success to her ability to surround herself with competent and committed people and her willingness to take risks. She is grateful to Lesley for providing outstanding teacher training and her academic foundation. The business she envisioned and built was sold by Barbara 12 years after she started it, which resulted in an unprecedented profit engineered by an accomplished businesswoman. Barbara’s father’s dream for his daughter to become independent was fulfilled beyond his expectations. He was a strong proponent for a personal philosophy of philanthropy, and now it is Barbara’s turn to take the lead and give back.
As members of the Edith Lesley Wolfard Society, Barbara and Gordon Russell will contribute much-needed scholarship funds to Lesley long after they are gone through their bequest. Barbara feels strongly that “By contributing to student scholarships through our planned gifts, Gordon and I will help future students receive the education they need to fulfill their dreams. Through this gift I hope to raise awareness about planned giving and challenge other alumni and friends to give back and give generously on behalf of Lesley’s future.”
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