Former Board of Visitors Member William E. Russell Dies
March 11, 2019
The Rev. William E. Russell, a former deputy superintendent of Chesapeake public schools who served on Old Dominion University's Board of Visitors for eight years, died on March 4. He was 79.
Russell was appointed to the board on July 1, 1997, and was reappointed to a second four-year term on July 1, 2001. He served on the Academic & Research Advancement and Student Advancement committees.
"Dr. Russell's life was grounded in service - both to students and the larger community," ODU President John R. Broderick said. "We are grateful that he included Old Dominion among the institutions he served, and we appreciate his commitment when he was a member of our Board of Visitors."
Russell was deeply committed to education and the ministry.
In 2013, he retired as deputy superintendent in Chesapeake after 49 years in education. Before returning to his native Virginia in 1991, he worked for the public school system in New Castle County, Delaware, for 27 years.
Additionally, he pastored in Delaware and Virginia for more than 54 years before retiring in February 2018 as pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Suffolk, where he served for nearly 26 years.
Russell attended Norfolk State University and received his bachelor's degree from Virginia State University in 1960. He received his master's and doctoral degrees in education from Temple University. He also attended Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa.
He was heavily involved in civic and community activities. In Virginia, they included the Union Baptist MissionaryChurch, the Chesapeake Branch of the NAACP and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. After undergoing extensive surgery in 1993, Russell established the Dr. L.D. Britt Scholarship Fund in honor of his surgeon to assist Norfolk State students who wish to pursue a medical career.
In Delaware, he organized and administered the first Head Start program in the city of New Castle as a volunteer. He served on several boards, including those of the Wilmington Branch of the NAACP, the YMCA, the Layton Home for the Aged, the Delaware Nature Society and the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program.
"First and in some ways most important, Rev. Russell was a very nice guy - easy to talk to, full of interesting stories and always wanting to know how he could help," recalled James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics Emeritus and President Emeritus at ODU.
"Dr. Russell was strongly committed to connecting the University to the region," Koch added. "He was both an idealist in terms of his goals and a realist in terms of figuring out things that actually could be accepted and work.
"In sum, he was an excellent board member."
He is survived by his daughters,Tonye Russell Epps, K. Nicole Powell (Whitney) and Kiondra Russell; his son, Johnny Vo (JoAnne); six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He also is survived by a brother, Lloyd Russell, sisters-in-law, nephews and nieces.
He was preceded in death by his wife, Angela, and three infant children.
Funeral services will be held at Union Baptist Missionary Church, 5414 Nansemond Parkway, Suffolk, at noon March 16. A wake will be held at 5 p.m. March 15 at Union Baptist Missionary Church. An Omega service will be held at 7:30 p.m. immediately following the wake. Entombment services will be held at Meadowbrook Memorial Gardens in Suffolk.