Article Contributed by
Chautauqua Region Community Foundation
It’s a story that still makes the Russell sisters laugh; it was their matchmaking grandmother, who first introduced their parents, Jerry Russell and the former Mary Lou Murty in 1952. “Mom had just moved to Sherman (from Buffalo) to work at the school as a home economics teacher. Grandma was head of the cafeteria at the time and invited Mom over to ‘help her menu plan’. She introduced her to Dad and that was it. They married the next year”
Over the next 55 years, until Mary Lou’s death in 2009, the couple raised their four daughters in Sherman, instilling in them the importance of an education and community service. Indeed, two of the daughters became educators. Watching their parents volunteer for a variety of community organizations also ensured the girls would value service.
“Mom was so engaged at the library, our church, Girl Scouts, anything she could do for other people, she would. As we got older, we spent summers monitoring the playground, restacking books at the library and serving as tour guides at the Yorker Museum.”
Jerry Russell, a fourth generation Shermanite, served on numerous town and village boards, as well as the board of Westfield Memorial Hospital. Jerry was a pillar in the Sherman community. Throughout his impressive banking career, he made it a point to underwrite loans based largely on the character of the client, often believing in them when no one else would.
This spring, Jerry passed away at the age of 93.
“People we didn’t even know were coming up to us at Dad’s funeral telling us stories of how he helped them get their businesses off the ground. They were just so thankful that he saw something in them.”
It was also during the funeral that friends of the family, Greg and Mary Huber, approached the daughters about creating a permanent legacy in memory of their parents.
“It never occurred to us to establish a perpetual scholarship in honor of our parents. Greg and Mary are remarkably thoughtful people and opened our eyes to this opportunity.”
With the support of their friends, and with guidance from the Community Foundation’s dedicated staff, the family ultimately decided to establish a scholarship fund to provide an annual financial award to a deserving graduating senior from the town or village of Sherman.
“Education was so important to Jerry and Mary Lou. There was never any doubt growing up that we would go to college, and we are grateful for how hard they worked to put all four of us through school.”
In addition to students pursuing higher education, job training or military service, recipients of The Mary Lou and Jerry Russell Scholarship must also demonstrate a commitment to community service.
“It would mean a lot to Mom and Dad that community service is part of the criteria for the scholarship we created in their name because it is reflective of their service to the Sherman community throughout their lives.”
But perhaps more than that, it means that Jerry and Mary Lou will be connected to the Sherman community forever. “Being at their house and going through their things, it feels like the end of an era, but having this scholarship gives our family an ongoing connection to Sherman. Every annual scholarship will be a reminder of Jerry and Mary Lou’s legacies.”
The Mary Lou and Jerry Russell Scholarship is endowed at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. Individuals who wish to honor Mary Lou and Jerry’s memories can make tax-deductible donations via credit card by visiting crcfonline.org or by mailing a check to the Foundation’s office at 418 Spring Street, Jamestown NY 14701.
The Community Foundation currently administers over 700 endowment funds that support emerging needs, charitable organizations, and local students pursuing higher education and job training. At the end of 2021, the Foundation’s asset level was $142 million.