Dr. John Russell                   Inducted 2002 - Class of 1960

John Russell's accomplishments could fill a book. He has been recognized as an outstanding student. He has been decorated for his many accomplishments in the military. He has received awards for teaching excellence. But John describes his election to the Woodward Hall of Fame as quite special. "This is as important an honor as I have ever received!"

John's roots are in Point Place, where he grew up about a block away from the Bay. He attended Kleis Elementary School and Point Place Junior High School. "My neighborhood was blue-collar, very pleasant, and quiet. Many of my older friends went to Waite, as my class was the first Point Place class to go to Woodward. The streets were lined with large elm trees, most of which have since died from Dutch Elm Disease. They've been replaced with maple trees, giving the neighborhood much the same appearance. The lake was not in very good condition at that time - it was quite polluted."

John had many special Woodward friends: Tom Rupley, Dennis Biddle, Jack Abrams, Dennis Murphy, Mike Duhaime, Jim Jewel, Elliot Mansour, Don Kornowa, Richard Duda, Jim Perrine, Janis Baumanis, Dick Durbin, Steve Worshtil, Sandy Schnetzler, Eileen Rosznoski, Mary Mitchell, Ruth Ann Schuffenecker, Sandy West, Joann Grueneberg, Linda Searle, Becky Jeffery, Diane Cates, and Bill Lingnell, who lived next door to Jim's future wife.

There were several teachers who John recalls as his favorites. They provided a foundation for his future accomplishments. "Ms. Joseph taught me to appreciate math and probably influenced me more than any other teacher in choosing engineering as a career, and teaching as a mission. Ms. Moorman was dedicated to excellence in her class, which was always very apparent. Mr. Foose generated my interest in physics. Mr. Szor put up with me as perhaps the worst trumpet player in the band and then allowed me to try the French horn. Ms. Tompkins taught me an appreciation of English and literature."

John has many fond Woodward memories. "The funniest one happened when riding in to school one morning. Tom Rupley decided to show us a great place to 'park' ,just off Manhattan Boulevard. We drove way back in on a one-lane road. As we were backing up, we were met by a police car blocking our way out. They were curious as to where we were going. Another memory was getting a large polar bear statue from a local ice cream shop to place in front of Woodward. Successfully instituting a boys' literary society, Aequatatis, allowed us to have the same venue as the girls' lit societies. My fondest memories, though, are how the Class of 1960, and those that followed, elevated Woodward from always being at the bottom of the city schools to being competitive with them, both athletically and academically."

After graduating from WHS, John continued his academics at Ohio State University, where he was awarded a Bachelor of Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering degree in 1965, followed by a Master of Science degree in 1966. In1974, John received a Doctor of Philosophy, Aerospace Engineering degree from the University of Michigan.

John served in the United States Air Force, in various capacities, for twenty-seven years, from 1966-1993. His first assignment was as an Aircraft Structural Engineer at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. His service included teaching Engineering Mechanics and Civil Engineering at the US Air Force Academy; research; acting as Director of Advanced Radiation Technology Directorate and Director of Space Technology and Missiles Directorate. He was also Chief Engineer, AC-130 Gunship Prototype from 1969-1970; Chief of Laser Beam Control Branch from 1980-1984; Special Assistant for Directed Energy to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Defense at the Pentagon from 1985-1986; and Chief of Analysis and Strategic Defense Division; and subsequently Vice Commander of Laboratory from 1986-1988. John retired from the Air Force in 1993 in the rank of Colonel. Since his retirement, John has been at the University of New Mexico, in Albuquerque, where he is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Director of Research in the School of Engineering, and Special Assistant to the Vice Provost for Research. John has said that he is "fortunate to be able to return to my first love - teaching - in this case, Mechanical Engineering".

Throughout John's career, he has excelled. He was the youngest officer ever selected as a US Air Force Academy faculty member. He flew 45 combat missions in developing the most sophisticated fire control system ever flown. He led Air Force programs/teams, which developed the first laser suitable for airborne deployment, satellite technology, electromagnetic guns, and conventional smart weapons. He has taught courses in vibrations, controls, Formula race car, and remotely controlled airplane model design.

John is a skilled speaker, with in-depth experience presenting briefings to senior Air Force and government leaders. He has published articles in various Technical and Engineering journals, and has presented papers and research at various conferences and seminars, including his opinions and findings on future space technology.

John has received numerous Air Force decorations and medals, including the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars, and the Air Force Organizational Excellence Award. With respect to the military awards, John comments that "some of the medals, as with all awards, don't say much more than that I survived the war. In contrast, some are for actions I am quite proud of, as they are normally awarded to those who fly. I received them while flying as an engineer, developing the AC-130 Gunship during actual combat. I am proud of the 45 missions I flew in an effort to cut the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and the supplies it carried to the North Vietnamese in South Vietnam. There were two crews which did not return home." Other non-military awards include the Society of Automotive Engineers Ralph R. Teetor Award for one of the nation's top ten faculty, and Outstanding Graduate Student in Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan.

John served on the University of New Mexico's Mechanical Engineering Department’s Advisory Board and on The Ohio State University's Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering Industrial Advisory Board. He is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, American Society for Engineering Education, and the Society of Automotive Engineers.

John is married to Pamela Gall, WHS Class of 1965. They have two daughters. Adrienne (age 31) is a graduate of the University of New Mexico, with degrees in Art History and Criminology. She is currently working on a Masters degree in Special Education. She lives in Albuquerque with her 2-year-old daughter, Kailei Grace, their only grandchild. Regan (age 25) has a BS in Biology from the University of Arizona, and an MS in Biomedical Science from the University of New Mexico. She is currently doing research on e-coli at the University of Texas, Southwest Medical Center, in Dallas. John's mother and father still live in the same house in Point Place.

When he has the time, John enjoys reading, hiking in the Sandia Mountain foothills near his home, exercising, music (jazz, classical, new age), working in the yard and on the house, cooking outdoors, mentoring high school supercomputing teams, learning all he can about formula race cars to use in his race car design course, learning about New Mexico, and most of all, playing with his granddaughter!

When informed of his election to the WHS Hall of Fame, John said that he was surprised and honored. "Although I have received many awards and various honors throughout my career, I have never received any recognition from where I grew up. After leaving for college, I have returned to Toledo only for short visits. Being in the military, my family has lived in twelve different locations across the country, the closest to Toledo being Ann Arbor. It's a different kind of honor to be recognized for your accomplishments by the people where you formed your beliefs and values."

This biography includes a small percentage of John Russell's accomplishments. Some might call John an overachiever. We prefer to call him a SUPER POLAR BEAR!

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

  • Facebook