Trust founding Chairman, Frank Russell, dies

Frank E. Russell
Business Leader, Philanthropist, Community Friend
December 6, 1920 – January 26, 2013

Frank E. Russell helped build Central Newspapers, Inc. (CNI) into one of the nation’s most successful family-owned newspaper companies and launched the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust as one of the largest philanthropic foundations in Arizona and Indiana.

John Zidich, CEO and publisher of The Arizona Republic, praised Russell’s business acumen and passion for the community, adding that Russell earned a stellar reputation in the media industry.

Russell shared a business relationship and friendship with Eugene and Nina Pulliam, founders of CNI, for almost 40 years.  He began his newspaper career in 1959 at the Indianapolis newspapers as business manager, a position he held until 1977 when he was named vice president and general manager of CNI.  In 1979, he was named president.

Russell’s background as a lawyer and certified public accountant were invaluable assets to the Pulliam family and CNI, said Marge Tarplee, who was then CNI’s secretary of the board, as she recalled how pleased  Eugene C. Pulliam was on the day he hired Russell.  “I was working with his wife Nina when Mr. Pulliam came into her office and said, ‘You’re not going to believe what just happened.  I got two for the price of one.’ ’’

Pulliam often looked to Russell for advice and guidance, Tarplee said.  “Frank was a shining star for the newspapers, the communities of Indianapolis and Phoenix, and the newspaper world overall.”

Russell served as president of CNI from 1979 through 1995 and chair of the board from 1996 through 1998.  CNI was the parent company for Indianapolis Newspapers Inc. and Phoenix Newspapers Inc. that included The Indianapolis Star, The Indianapolis News, The Arizona Republic, The Phoenix Gazette, The Muncie Star, The Muncie Evening Press, Topics Newspapers, The Vincennes Sun-Commercial and The Alexandria Daily Town Talk in Alexandria, Louisiana.  Gannett Newspapers, Inc. purchased CNI in 2000.

“Frank was a man of the highest integrity.  He was, above all, a great listener.  And, after digesting all information, would act, invariably doing the right thing.  His people skills were beyond reproach, giving many, including me, the chance to succeed.  As CEO of Central Newspapers, he led the company to new heights,” said Louis A. ‘Chip’ Weil III, who Russell recruited in 1991 to become publisher and CEO of Phoenix Newspapers Inc. Weil was named president and CEO of CNI in 1996 upon Russell’s retirement.

“Frank Russell was my mentor and wonderful friend.  I will miss him, as will all those who dealt with him both in the Valley and in Indianapolis.  Frank had a long, fruitful and productive life and he should be an example to us all,” Weil added.

Upon Nina Mason Pulliam’s death in 1997, Russell was named chair and founding Trustee of the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust.  Russell oversaw the creation of one of the most significant charitable foundations in Arizona and Indiana.

“Frank was Nina’s dear friend and close business associate, and it fell to him to organize the Trust after her death,” said Carol Peden Schilling, Nina Pulliam’s niece, who Russell appointed as a founding trustee to the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust in 1997.  Schilling became chair last year following Russell’s retirement.

“I always found Frank to be not only the smartest man in the room but the kindest and most considerate.  He was astute, succinct and insightful.  There will never be anyone like him and we shall miss him,” Schilling added.

Longtime business associate Kent E. Agness, who Frank appointed as Trustee, upon his retirement, said, “Losing Frank leaves a big hole in our community, but also a big hole in the hearts of those of us who were lucky enough to work with him.”

Under Russell’s leadership, the Trust granted more than $194 million divided equally to 837 nonprofit organizations in Arizona and Indiana helping people in need, protecting animals and nature and enriching community life in Indianapolis and Phoenix

The Trust also created a nationally acclaimed scholarship program, the Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars, for nontraditional scholarship recipients that  has brought the dream of a college education to 434 individuals in Arizona and Indiana since 2001.

“Frank Russell was a soft-spoken man, but he was not shy about being direct, honest and clear in giving his advice and opinion,” said John Vanausdall, president and CEO of the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art.

“Frank helped guide the museum during his tenure as a board member at a profoundly exciting and important time.  The museum was completing a strategic plan that evolved into a $40 million capital-endowment campaign, ‘Eye on the Future.’  The campaign’s ultimate success would not have been possible without Frank’s resolve and quiet leadership.

“He never sought the limelight for himself, but always focused on what he believed was best for the museum and also the Indianapolis community,” Vanausdall concluded.

“Dad has been a great father for my sisters, brother and me in addition to all his success in the business world.  He’s always been there for us regardless of his professional commitments,” said son Richard “Rick” Russell.  “His family leadership provided us with standards and examples that have shaped every aspect of our lives.”

Others described him as a visionary.

“He helped develop Central Newspapers into one of the most lucrative publishing companies in the country,” said Richard Mallery, family friend and senior partner at Snell & Wilmer, a Phoenix-based law firm.

Mallery stated of all his memories, his favorite was watching Frank and “his beloved wife Nancy dancing.  They were fantastic on the dance floor, moving together in perfect sync, which I believe symbolized their graceful partnership in life.

“Their love and respect for each other is a model for us all; how to live, how to love, how to give back, making our community a better place for us all to call home,”  Mallery said.

Phoenix

The visitation in Phoenix is Thursday, January 31, at Whitney & Murphy Funeral Home, 4800 East Indian School Road from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. A memorial service will be held Friday, February 1, at 1 p.m., at The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center at 1375 East Broadway Road in Phoenix.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to Hospice of the Valley, 1510 East Flower Street, Phoenix, Arizona, 85014 or “The Russell Day Camp” for underserved youth at The Salvation Army Ray & Joan Kroc Community Center at 1375 East Broadway Road, Phoenix, Arizona, 85040.

Indianapolis

The visitation in Indianapolis is Thursday, February 7, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Meridian Street United Methodist Church, 5500 N. Meridian Street.   A memorial service will be held Friday, February 8, at 2 p.m. at the Meridian Street United Methodist Church.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions be made to The Salvation Army Indiana Division, Indiana Divisional Headquarters, 3100 N. Meridian Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46208 or The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, 615 N. Alabama Street, Suite 200, Indianapolis, Indiana, 46204.