Frank E. Russell
Business Leader, Philanthropist, Community Friend Dies
December 6, 1920 – January 26, 2013
Frank E. Russell helped build Central Newspapers, Inc. (CNI) into one of the nation's most successful newspaper companies and launched the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust as one of the largest philanthropic foundations in Arizona and Indiana.
Russell's background as a lawyer and certified public accountant were invaluable assets to the Pulliam family and CNI, said Marge Tarplee, who was then CNI's secretary of the corporation, as she recalled how pleased Eugene C. Pulliam was on the day he hired Russell. "I was working with his wife Nina, Mr. Pulliam came into her office and he said, 'You're not going to believe what just happened. I got two for the price of one.'"
Pulliam often looked to Russell for advice and guidance, Tarplee said. "Frank was a shining star for the newspapers, the communities of Indianapolis and Phoenix, and the newspaper industry overall."
Russell shared a business relationship and friendship with the Pulliams, founders of CNI, for almost 40 years. He began his newspaper career in 1959 working for them as the business manager at the Indianapolis newspapers, a position he held until 1977 when he was named vice president and general manager of CNI. In 1979 he was named president.
Russell served as president through 1995 and chairman of the board from 1996 through 1998. CNI was the parent company for Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. and Phoenix Newspapers Inc. that included The Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix Gazette, The Muncie Star, The Muncie Evening Press, Topics Newspapers, The Vincennes Sun-Commercial and The Alexandria Daily Town Talk in Alexandria, La. Gannett Newspapers, Inc. purchased CNI in 2000.
"Frank was a man of the highest integrity. He was, above all, a great listener. And, after digesting all information, would act, invariably doing the right thing. His people skills were beyond reproach, giving many, including me, the chance to succeed. As CEO of Central Newspapers, he led the company to new heights," said Louis A. 'Chip' Weil III, who Russell recruited in 1991 to become publisher and CEO of Phoenix Newspapers Inc. Weil was named president and CEO of CNI in 1996 upon Russell's retirement.
"Frank Russell was my mentor and wonderful friend. I will miss him as will all those who dealt with him both here in Indianapolis and Phoenix. Frank had a long, fruitful and productive life and he should be an example to us all," Weil added.
Upon Nina Mason Pulliam's death in 1997, Russell was named chairman and founding Trustee of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. Russell oversaw the creation of one of the most significant charitable foundations in Arizona and Indiana.
"Frank was Nina's dear friend and close business associate, and it fell to him to organize the Trust after her death," said Carol Schilling, Nina Pulliam's niece, who Russell appointed as a founding trustee to the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust in 1997. Schilling became chair last year following Russell's retirement.
"I always found Frank to be not only the smartest man in the room but the kindest and most considerate. He was astute, succinct and insightful. There will never be anyone like him and we shall miss him," Schilling added.
Under his leadership, the Trust granted more than $192 million to 847 nonprofit organizations in Arizona and Indiana helping people in need, protecting animals and nature and enriching community life in Indianapolis and Phoenix. In Indiana, 432 nonprofit organizations received more than $96 million in grants.
The Trust also created a nationally acclaimed scholarship program, the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars, for nontraditional scholarship recipients that brought the dream of a college education to 434 individuals in Arizona and Indiana.
"Frank Russell was a soft-spoken man, but he was not shy about being direct, honest and clear in giving his advice and opinion," said John Vanausdall, president and CEO Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.
"Frank helped guide the museum during his tenure as a board member at a profoundly exciting and important time. The museum was completing a strategic plan that evolved into a $40 million capital-endowment campaign 'Eye on the Future.' The campaign's ultimate success would not have been possible without Frank's resolve and quiet leadership.
"He never sought the limelight for himself, but always focused on what he believed was best for the museum and also the Indianapolis community," Vanausdall concluded.
"Losing Frank leaves a big hole in our community, but also a big hole in the hearts of those of us who were lucky enough to work with him," stated longtime business associate Kent E. Agness, who Frank appointed to the Trust upon his retirement.
"Dad has been a great father for my sisters, brother and me in addition to all his success in the business world. He's always been there for us regardless of his professional commitments," said son Richard "Rick" Russell. "His family leadership provided us with standards and examples that have shaped every aspect of our lives."
"Frank Russell was a visionary. He helped develop Central Newspapers into one of the most lucrative publishing companies in the country. He led a Trust that proved to be a model for other philanthropies," said Richard Mallery, family friend.
Mallery stated of all his memories, his favorite was watching Frank and "his beloved wife Nancy dancing. They were fantastic on the dance floor, moving together in perfect sync which, I believe, symbolized their graceful partnership in life.
"Their love and respect for each other is a model for us all; how to live, how to love, how to give back, making our community a better place for us all to call home," Mallery said.
Russell was born Dec. 6, 1920, in Kokomo, Indiana, the son of a Standard Oil of Indiana employee whose job kept him moving throughout the state, including Delphi, Mishawaka and Evansville, where he attended both high school and college.
He was graduated cum laude from the University of Evansville in 1942 before joining the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II with the rank of first lieutenant. After the war, he received a certificate in 1946 from the International Accountants Society in Chicago and, in 1948, became a Certified Public Accountant.
He enrolled in the Indiana University School of Law, graduating with honors in 1951.
Before joining the newspapers, Russell was executive vice president of Spickelmier Industries, Inc., from 1953 to 1959, and a partner with the Geo. S. Olive & Co. (now BKD) accounting firm from 1947 to 1953.
In addition to his duties as president of Central Newspapers, Inc., Mr. Russell served as a director of the company and also director and secretary-treasurer of Phoenix Newspapers Inc., Central Newspapers Foundation, Muncie Newspapers Inc. and Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. He also served as past director and past president of Central Newsprint Company and Bradley Paper Company and was trustee of the Central Newspapers Inc. retirement trust and savings plus plan.
He served as a director of the Newspaper Advertising Bureau, Inc. and governor of Newspaper Association of America.
He also was a life trustee of the University of Evansville and served as director of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, Methodist Hospital, Winona Memorial Foundation of Indianapolis, Walther Cancer Institute and president of the Institute of Newspaper Controllers and Finance Officers, treasurer of the Meridian Street United Methodist Church, director and president of the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis and a member and past vice chairman of the Advisory Board of the Salvation Army. He served as a director for the Arizona community Foundation and The Phoenix Zoo.
He was a past chairman of the WFYI advisory board and honorary director of the Metropolitan Indianapolis Television Association, past director of the 500 Festival Association, Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, United Way of Greater Indianapolis, the advisory board of the Girls Clubs of Greater Indianapolis and Girls Clubs Foundation, Arizona Community Foundation and director and past president of Meridian Hills Country Club.
He was a member of the Indianapolis, Indiana and American bar associations, the Indiana Association of Certified Public Accountants, American Institute of CPAs, IU Board of Visitors for School of Law, The Indiana Academy, Indianapolis Zoological Society Advisory Committee, Economic Club, Press Club, Indiana Society of Chicago, Indianapolis Athletic Club, Columbia Club, Kiwanis Club of Indianapolis, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Phi Delta Phi, Order of Coif a legal honorary society Mystic Tie Lodge 398, Scottish Rite and Shrine.
Frank Russell was recognized by the Arizona State University Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication for his years of leadership in Phoenix when it created the Frank E. Russell Chair in Business and Journalism. Marian University also honored Russell at its 6th Annual "Opportunities for Excellence" dinner for his significant contributions to the state of Indiana. He also was presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash.
Russell has been listed in Who's Who in America since 1971, Who's Who in the Midwest since 1975 and Who's Who in Advertising since 1988.
Russell's children, whose mother is Dorothy M. Russell, include: Linda C. Atkins, Richard L. and his wife Belinda, Rita J. Eagle and husband Dru, Frank E. Russell III, and Juli B. Russell; 16 grandchildren and 16 great grandchildren. When Russell and Nancy married in 1992, the family grew to include: Kevin R. Shover and wife Gail, Sandra Shover Moses and husband John, Lisa Shover Kackley and husband Jerry, and T.A. Shover and wife Julie; seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren. Russell is also survived by his brother Harold G. Russell and wife Virginia.
The visitation is Thursday, Feb. 7 from 4 to 6 pm at Meridian Street United Methodist Church, 5500 N. Meridian Street.
A memorial service will be held Friday, Feb. 8 at 2 p.m. at Meridian Street United Methodist Church, 5500 N. Meridian Street.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to the Salvation Army Indiana Division, Indiana Divisional Headquarters, 3100 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46208 or The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis 615 N. Alabama Street, suite 200, Indianapolis, Indiana 46204.
Published in the The Indianapolis Star on Feb. 3, 2013