Professor Emeritus of Physics Allan M. Russell P’81, P’86 died at his Romulus home on Saturday, Feb. 26. A beloved member of the Hobart and William Smith community from 1967-1997, Russell was known for his steadfast devotion to expansive thinking, his belief in the power of bi-disciplinary scholarship, and his dedication to educating students in the liberal arts tradition. In remembrance, a funeral service will be held at 10 a.m. on Monday, March 7 at Trinity Church, 520 S. Main St. Geneva. Burial will be held in Brookside Cemetery.
Russell studied at Brown University, where he earned his Sc.B. and Sc.M. in physics, and at Syracuse University, where he received his Ph.D., also in physics.
He taught physics at Syracuse University and University of California/Riverside before coming to HWS as associate provost in 1967. One year later, he was appointed provost and dean of faculty, serving in that role until 1972. It was a time of great importance in the evolution of the curriculum and Russell’s guidance was critical, especially in the transition to an inclusive model that embraced new fields and perspectives of study.
Russell was a visiting professor at the University of Wurzburg, Germany and at the State University at Stonybrook, and assisted in the establishment of University of Northern California, a graduate research institute in biomedical engineering.
In the 1970s he worked with Gerard K. O’Neill on the NASA space colonization project, a plan to build human settlements in outer space. He co-authored “Metaphoric Process; The Creation of Scientific and Religious Understanding,” and was co-editor of “Space Colonization: Technology and the Liberal Arts.” He also wrote and delivered numerous articles and papers on diverse subjects such as statistical measurement and the philosophical concept of human origin and destiny.
It was Russell’s ability to consider multiple perspectives in his own work that led him to seek connections between science and theology. In 1977, Russell and his colleague, Professor Emerita of Religious Studies Mary Gerhart, initiated one of the first bi-disciplinary courses at HWS, combining the two fields. They perfected the approach over two decades and in 1998 received a teaching prize from the John Templeton Foundation. A prolific author, Russell wrote a number of books and articles, many with Gerhart. The two were named the first joint Fellows at the Center for Theology and Natural Sciences at Berkeley, California.
He created and endowed the annual Holland Physics Lecture Competition in which students present a result from the world of physics and are judged by the scientific and rhetorical quality of their presentations. The competition memorializes Albert Holland, a former president of Hobart and William Smith.
Russell is survived by his wife, Marjorie Ann Servis, and their five children, Susan Russell ’86, Julia Russell Eells ’81, Clifford Russell, Kathryn Russell Hayden, and Andrew Russell as well as 12 grandchildren, and one great-grandson.