Dr. David R. Russell joins the Columbia College Board of Trustees after distinguished careers in the higher education world and the U.S. Army.
Russell retired in March 2016 after spending nearly six years as Commissioner of Higher Education for the state of Missouri and CEO for the Missouri Department of Higher Education, in which he was responsible for policy in a system that serves 430,000 students attending both public and independent two- and four-year colleges and universities. As commissioner, Russell oversaw initiatives aimed at eliminating barriers to college completion for Missouri’s students, making a college education attainable and affordable and promoting career pathways in such high-demand areas as the sciences, education and the health professions.
Prior to his appointment as state commissioner, Russell spent nearly 20 years working for the University of Missouri System as associate director of university relations (1991-2000), director of university relations (2000-04), and chief of staff (2004-09). He was appointed a general officer and senior associate vice president of the University in 2009. He provided leadership in planning, facilitating and coordinating activities of the office of the president with members of the board of curators, general officers and the university’s internal and external stakeholders.
Before starting his academic career, Russell completed a highly decorated, 22-year Army career as a commissioned officer, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1991. He held command and staff positions in combat infantry, personnel management and public affairs, including stints as chief of media initiatives in the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Army and Army spokesman and media relations desk officer in the Office of the Secretary of the Army at the Pentagon. Russell’s personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Purple Heart, Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Service Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal for Valor and Combat Infantryman’s Badge.
He holds a Bachelor of Science in Education from Henderson State University, a Master of Arts in Communications from The American University in Washington, D.C., and a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy analysis from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Russell and his wife, Lee, live in Columbia and have six sons and 11 grandchildren.