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Brother Cornelius Joseph

Brother Cornelius Joseph fms (1920 - 2009)

Family name:  Russell, John

John  was born the son of Joseph and Genevieve Russell  in the Bronx on 29 February 1920.  Since his parents could save on birthday candles, cakes and gifts, they decided to have two other children, Genevieve in 1923, and Mary four years later.  The family lived on Ryer Avenue in the Bronx in 1930.

John entered the United States Army at the beginning of World War II, and saw service in the European theater, mostly in North Africa, where his unit checked the weather and reported to the Air Force using codes from a manual.  The soldiers off duty had lots of time on their hands, and they engaged in a continuous bridge game.  As a result, John became a crackerjack bridge player, a pastime he pursued his entire life.  There was always controversy whether Jimmy Dixon or John Russell was the better bridge player;  it was the Brothers' version of who's greater,  Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays.  A secondary pastime was guessing the weather, and John was skilled at reading future weather from knowledge of the winds and cloud formations.

After discharge from the Army, John entered the Marist Brothers as a postulant in September 1946.  He had some fellow ex-servicemen, notable Eddie Lyons and Dennis Hyndsman, but the most part his fellow students were ten years younger, and far less mature.  He handled this gracefully, which reminds the Brothers how Father Champagnat must have felt when he first entered the junior seminary, thrown in with youngsters in southern France.

At the time he became a novice, he received the name Brother Cornelius Joseph, and used that name for the first decade of his teaching career.  The order reversed its policy, and Brothers were allowed to revert to their family names.  At Marist College, he was called Brother Cornelius J  Russell — the "J" may stand for John, his original name, or Joseph, his father's name.

At Marist College, he had a choice of majoring in either history or mathematics, and chose history, graduating in 1950.  For his graduate work, he chose Columbia University for an MBA, following somewhat in the steps of his father, who was an employee of a bank for many years.

About 1960, an opening occurred on the Marist College faculty.  Richard Foy, then President, asked the Provincial to send John, who was teaching at the high school in Augusta, Georgia.  Brother came to Marist and stayed there for the remainder of his teaching career.  Foy guessed that Russell would relate very well to evening school students, who themselves were older than typical college students, and who had to combine work, family and academics.  Foy also was starting majors in business administration and accounting. 

A major thrust at Marist College is to place students into working internships with businesses outside the college grounds.  Recognizing Brother's unique diplomatic skills, Jack Kelly, Chairman of the division, asked him to teach less courses and supervise the interns, visiting their places of work, and handling any problems or misunderstandings which might have arisen between the employer and student.  He did this for the last decade at Marist.

After retiring from the College,  Brother Russell moved into Marist Brothers retirement community in Florida.  But he was a New York City boy;  he returned to the East Village several years ago, where he lives at the Cabrini Center on 5th Street, close to where his sister Mary lives on 14th Street.  (Genevieve died in 1997.)

In October 2003,  Brother Russell was named a Heritage Professor at Marist College in recognition of his long service to the college and its students.

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