Who was Russell Hall named for?
Of all the residence halls on campus, only North Russell and South Russell share a common name, differentiated in title simply by their geographic proximity to one another. So, it’s fitting the connected facilities that have housed thousands of Baylor students for over five decades, are named for not one, but two fascinating people who shared a life together and a love for Baylor University.
Willard Russell, AM ’30, and Stella Wolters Russell, BA 1915, had already enjoyed a wide variety of work experiences and accomplishments when they met at Baylor in 1928. Stella grew as an accomplished violinist after receiving a music degree from Baylor, and Willard had traveled a particularly circuitous route on the way to becoming a Baylor student. His 1974 obituary in the Shiner (Texas) Gazette tells the story.
Working to pay his way through college at UTEP, Willard took a mining job in the Grand Canyon. The demanding nature of the job, however, encouraged him to pursue another path back to his hometown of Hallettsville, Texas, as superintendent of schools. A growing interest in psychology brought him to Baylor, where he earned a psychology degree, taught classes and met Stella. Afterwards, Willard earned a law degree, became a farmer and rancher, helped establish the freeway system southwest of Houston, served on the Baylor Board of Trustees, and began a non-profit religious and educational foundation.
Somehow, amidst a bevy of wide-ranging responsibilities, Willard found time to draw on his psychological training to write six books on the subject. He encouraged others to draw on the power of positive belief, self-esteem and human worth, and advocated for religion and psychology as forces for unleashing the best in people. (One of those books, Peace and Power Within: A Guide to Effective Living, is still available on Amazon!)
As Baylor grew in the 1960s, a new residence hall was needed to accommodate the university’s growing female student population. That new hall opened in 1962 and was called simply “New Hall.” That generic descriptor wouldn’t last forever, however. In 1966, Baylor trustees voted to re-christen New Hall as “Russell Hall” in honor of Willard and Stella, who had donated acreage near Houston to the university. When another new hall was built in 1967, the original section became known as North Russell Hall and the new facility was dubbed South Russell.
Generations of Baylor students have now called home these two buildings named for a versatile and accomplished husband and wife team who left a lasting imprint on their alma mater.
Sic ’em, Willard and Stella Russell!