In Memoriam: Russ Howes 1949-2016

Posted by Craig C. Wruck on Sep 7, 2016 11:47:20 AM

Russell Norman Howes, age 66, of Wisconsin, died on August 31, 2016. Russ was preceded in death by his parents and brother Robert. He is survived by his wife, Sue Howes, his brother, Randy (Colleen) Howes, sisters-in-law Janet Howes and Marilyn Kelley, nephews Dustin, Brandon (Erin), Jason (Shannon), Cory (Anna), grand-niece Madeline and grand-nephew Henry.

 The bare facts of an obituary. If you’ve worked in planned giving you’ve been asked to help write one. But this is different. We have lost one of our profession’s most caring and gentle spirits. And we’ve lost a career-long colleague and friend.

 Russ was born on October 25, 1949. He attended Eastern Michigan University and Michigan State University where he earned his Bachelor and Masters degrees in Theatre. Russ loved the performing arts and went to work at the Red Barn Theater in Rockton, Illinois.

 In 1980 Russ earned his law degree from Wayne State University. He worked in a private law practice in Michigan for two years before he joined Western Michigan University in 1982 and discovered the world of planned giving.

 The University of Wisconsin Foundation lured Russ away in 1988 and he quickly became a leader in Big Ten planned giving. Dan Chegwidden, who serves at Russ’s alma mater Michigan State, first met him at an NCPG Conference in 1990. “He was one of the very first to welcome me to, what was then, the ‘Brotherhood’ of Directors of Planned Giving of the Big Ten. He offered himself as a resource and quickly became a mentor and my confidant.”

 Russ was what Frank Minton calls “the complete package as a professional. He was among the top tier of technical experts. He acted in the best interest of donors and they trusted him. He helped his staff grow and take satisfaction in their achievements. He had good judgment. He was a great colleague, ready to respond quickly when you sought his help or opinion. He exemplified the highest ethical principles.”

 A master of the techniques of charitable gift planning, Russ was a reliable resource for the knottiest problems. “As we would drill down together on an issue, I enjoyed – with surprise at first, and later with expectation – that he had thoroughly thought through the matter and had formed a very logical, intelligent opinion and approach,” recalls Emil Kallina.

 But most of all, Russ was just simply, a delight to be around. Pamela Davidson recalls Russ “serenading us all, playing guitar, singing his planned giving ditties. ‘All of my dates are with ladies in their eighties,’ was among my favorites.” Andre Donikian remembers Russ as “charming, smart, witty, funny, curious, thoughtful, kind and, above all, a decent person. He wrote funny songs about the tax code, and he loved to cook complicated dishes, a passion we shared. He loved our profession and served it ably and nobly in many capacities. Russ was my friend and I shall miss him a lot.”

 Chegwidden sums it up this way, “Thus far in my lifetime, I have only known three, maybe four truly renaissance men. Russ Howes was one of them. The world is a lesser place because the world needs renaissance men and women who are cerebral and talented yet witty and possess a sense of well-timed humor.”

We miss you Russ.


Craig C. Wruck

Topics: Leadership, News, Obituaries