University of Minnesota Duluth

Donor Spotlight

Charles and Carolyn Russell

It was natural for the Russells to get involved with the UMD performing arts program. The very foundation of the Russells' marriage is rooted in the arts.

When Charles was stationed at a Kansas Air Force base, he traveled to Bethany College to sing in Handel's Messiah and Bach's St. Matthew Passion. That's where he met Carolyn. She noticed him right away, "He sang well," she said. "He sat straight and held the book up properly."

After they married, they moved to Minneapolis and sang in the semi-professional Cathedral Church of St. Mark's choir. Charles, who was working as a bank executive, got involved with the Theatre in the Round. He played Biff in Death of a Salesman and Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and, later, he served on the theatre’s board. When the Russells moved to Duluth in 1980, they were almost immediately selected for the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra chorus. Carolyn found an appreciative Duluth audience for her artwork. She is an accomplished photographer, and several art galleries have hosted her exhibitions.

In the summer of 2006, the Russells became event sponsors for the opera Carmen in the UMD Sieur du Luth Summer Arts Festival, where over 100 international performers participated in four productions. In the summer of 2008, they served as Sieur du Luth sponsors again for the opera Il Trovatore. "It is amazing that so many people from around the world come to Duluth to perform opera," said Carolyn. "It's stimulating for the community, and we benefit from the exposure."

The sponsorship fits the Russells' philosophy. Charles said, "Life means more when you are able to enjoy art and music."

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