Joe Russo accepts his honorary Monogram scroll and blazer from executive director Beth Hunter

Former Director of Financial Aid Joe Russo Awarded With Honorary Monogram

June 29, 2012


As the cost of higher education in America continues to rise with each passing year, the awarding of a scholarship can often mean the difference between a high school senior attending his or her dream school, or having to look for other post-secondary options.

Joe Russo has made a lot of dreams possible during his 34 years in the Notre Dame financial aid office, and his management of the Monogram Club’s Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund has allowed close to 200 children of Monogram winners to attend the University.

For his significant assistance in helping Monogram winners provide an elite education for their sons and daughters, the Monogram Club awarded Russo with a surprise honorary Monogram at his retirement party Thursday afternoon in the Joyce Center’s Club Naimoli.

Midway through the speaking portion of the event, Monogram Club board member Tom Galloway (’87, football) – who benefited from Russo’s assistance during his time at Notre Dame – took to the podium and described Russo as a “Level Five Leader,” as defined by author Jim Collins in the management book, Good To Great.

“Joe blends extreme personal humility with intense professional will, and puts his ambition for Notre Dame far beyond his own personal ambitions,” Galloway said. “He is modest, willful, humble and fearless.”

From there, Galloway called Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter and president Dick Nussbaum (’74, ’77, baseball) up to the stage to present Russo with his Monogram scroll and blazer.

“This is one of the nicest things that’s ever happened to me and I’m honored to be a part of this exclusive group,” said Russo, who retired in March. “I’m very proud of my time at the University, and now that I’m a Monogram member, I look forward to staying active here at Notre Dame with all the activities the Club hosts.”

A critical voice in making the Monogram Club’s Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund (BBRSF) a reality, Russo first began working with the Club when it facilitated both a loan and scholarship program in the late 1970s. Russo encouraged the Club to combine the two funds and create an endowment, and the results have been extraordinary.

After giving out four scholarships for a total of $3,000 to children of Monogram winners during the endowment’s inaugural year (1980), the BBRSF has since provided more than $3.8 million dollars in scholarship assistance to hundreds of deserving recipients. With a market value of more than $6 million, the BBRSF stands as the 25th largest endowment of the University’s 1,905 endowed scholarships and is the second largest scholarship fund sponsored by alumni clubs. In 2011-12, the BBRSF allocated more than $300,000 in aid to 32 sons and daughters of Monogram winners.

“I like to say that goodness begets goodness, and because of the generosity of Monogram winners, many more dreams of attending Notre Dame have come true,” Russo said of the individuals who contribute financially to the endowment each year. “Someday, those students will donate their time and resources, and even more students will benefit as a result. It’s special to see the continuation of this beautiful network that is the Notre Dame family.”

Russo was appointed director of financial aid at the University of Notre Dame in 1978, after serving in two similar capacities in upstate New York. In 2005, he became the director of student financial strategies at Notre Dame.

Russo has served as a consultant for a number of organizations, including the College Board and the U.S. Department of Education, and was the editor of the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators Journal of Student Financial Aid for 21 years. He was a charter member of the NCAA Committee on Financial Aid and Amateurism and has testified before the U.S. Congress on major public policy issues related to student aid.

Russo has been involved in training throughout his entire career. In 2004 he was named to the College Scholarship Service Hall of Fame by the College Board. He has served on the Board of Directors for the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation, Scholarship America, and the Private College 529 Plan.

He has published two books on student aid for Random House and in the summer of 2006 was appointed a Fellow at New College of Oxford University serving as a consultant for higher education pricing and student aid policies for the United Kingdom. His first book, entitled Student Financial Aid: Lessons for the UK from the US, was published in 2007 by the Centre for Higher Education Studies at Oxford. Another book, entitled The Art & Science of Student Aid Administration in the 21st Century, was published by the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators in 2010.

In October 2007, Mr. Russo was appointed by the White House to a federal commission charged with advising Congress on matters of access to and affordability of American higher education.

He is a graduate of Le Moyne and Syracuse University and was named an honorary alumnus of Notre Dame in 1992.

— ND —