Impressed by Engineering Students, Alum Establishes Scholarship

By: Grace Merritt, The UConn Foundation

During a recent visit back to UConn’s School of Engineering, Russ St. John ’80 (ENGR) ’85 (MBA) met several remarkable students he supported with a scholarship donation.

One in particular stood out.

“I remember a young lady who said she wanted to help provide clean water in Latin America. She was talking about taking her education and using it to help lots of people. It was inspiring,” he said.

Russ was so impressed, he decided to give a permanent scholarship to the School of Engineering as part of his legacy. With help from the UConn Foundation, he arranged to leave a gift to the School of Engineering to create the scholarship in his will.

“What better a way to leave a legacy?” he said. “It really attached to my heart right away. I decided this is what I want to do.”

Russ, who was raised in Southington, Conn., was the first in his family to go college. He didn’t receive a scholarship and paid his way through school, balancing his heavy academic load with weekday jobs in a University lab and weekend shifts at a local Howard Johnson’s restaurant. His scholarship will pave a smoother path for other promising engineering students for decades to come.

When he first decided to leave a gift to the University in his estate, he wasn’t sure how to do it. He said the UConn Foundation staff was helpful in outlining his options and explaining the tax benefits of planned gifts, such as IRAs.

“I’d also encourage anyone who is thinking about it to go to the school they graduated from for a tour. Go meet the students and talk to them. It’s inspiring,” he said.

Russ double-majored in mechanical engineering and material science and immediately got a job designing jet engines at GE, where he worked for 21 years. He was then recruited for a job in Minneapolis for Katun, a technology provider for the printing industry. He later joined Entrust Datacard as chief marketing officer.

In their free time, he and his wife, Elaine, a nurse, like to volunteer at a local alternative high school, helping students earn their GEDs. Russ also makes time for travel. In April, he enjoyed a two-week trek in Nepal, hiking up to 15,300 feet in the Himalayas.

“It was quite strenuous,” he said. “It was just a great experience, meeting Buddhist monks, spending time with kind and loving people, and just living very lean.”

Wherever he has gone, his UConn education has been a great passport to success, he said.

“UConn is a great enabler because it offers a superb education that’s cost-effective. But there are students who still need help. Scholarships provide the assistance they need,” he said.

To find out more about leaving a planned gift, visit uconn.plannedgiving.org

Published: November 8, 2017