George Russell's life changed April 6, 2001. That was the day his wife, Jane, was diagnosed with cancer. That was the day he decided to end his day-to-day involvement with The Frank Russell Co. and devote all his time and energy helping Jane.
Last Saturday evening 1,400 people from all walks of life - including Gary Locke, governor of the State of Washington; General John M. Shalikashvilli, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Dale Chihuly, one of America's foremost stained glass artists; and hundreds of Russell Co. associates - gathered at the Tacoma Dome Exhibition Hall to honor the work of George and Jane as they withdraw from the company.
Though George had handed over the day-to-day management in 1992 to Mike Phillips, president and CEO, no one expected him to end his involvement with the company he joined 40 years ago and reshaped into a world-class investment management consulting firm and, more recently, a major institutional money manager.
But, as he told those attending the "George and Jane Russell Commencement Exercise," as the retirement party was called, April 6 changed his priorities. He decided to spend all of his time caring for Jane and supporting her in her battle against the illness.
The investment world will miss his vision and inventiveness. During the past 40 years George virtually invented investment management consulting, and his company pioneered most of the processes used today to evaluate, select and monitor money managers, be it for the management of a pension fund, a mutual fund or a wrap program. Through its consulting operations, the Frank Russell Co. influences the management of $1 trillion around the world.
In addition, George invented the manager-of-managers pooled funds now widely used for the pension funds of companies desiring to totally outsource management. Through its own manager-of-managers pooled funds, the Frank Russell Co. now manages $66 billion.
George has not restricted his attention to investment problems in the United States. Through the 20-20 Group of 20 large pension funds and 20 large money managers, he has tried to stimulate the development of capital markets and funded pension systems in other countries, particularly Russia and China. And he has encouraged U.S. pension funds to become familiar with these countries, and to invest some of their pension assets in them.
Less known is George's work behind the scenes through the EastWest Institute to help some of these countries develop systems that would encourage private investment. For example, he is financing research by Russian scientists on how to treat nuclear waste, a vital issue not only in Russia but also the United States.
Jane Russell joined the Frank Russell Co. as director of the people division, part of the human resources function, in 1984. She was responsible for the introduction of an employee sabbatical program allowing Russell employees to take eight weeks off with full pay after 10 years of service to recharge their batteries or fulfill some non-work related goal. She also was heavily involved in the design of Russell's 12-story headquarters building, which helped spark revitalization in downtown Tacoma.
A few years ago, when George asked what she wanted for Christmas, Jane responded that she wanted a new Habitat for Humanity house. They have now been involved in the construction of several houses, even taking hammers in hand.
Now, they plan to stay as involved as possible in their outside projects. Perhaps they'll even get to build a new house for Habitat for Humanity.