Cornerstone Society

It should come as no surprise that Michael and Lovette Russell are interested in diversity at the University of Virginia.

Michael Russell (Engineering ’87) is the son of Herman J. Russell, a personal friend of the late Martin Luther King, Jr., and the founder of one of the largest minority-owned construction and real estate firms in the country. Lovette Twyman Russell is a lifelong resident of the Atlanta area and a third-generation college graduate, the child of two educators.

Michael, who majored in civil engineering, has led H. J. Russell & Company to grow and succeed, participating in such major national projects as the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center at U.Va., and the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Lovette, a psychology major at Spelman College, worked in corporate sales for Xerox Corporation after her graduation in 1983 and has been active in the Atlanta nonprofit community.

Michael and Lovette have set an example of giving back for their sons, Michael, Jr. (Batten ’16), and Benjamin, a sophomore at the University of South Carolina.

Lovette serves as a trustee for Spelman and has raised funds for need-based scholarships for African-American women attending the historically black liberal arts college. She has endorsed her husband’s support for need-based scholarships at U.Va. “This was Michael’s alma mater and he had an exceptional experience here,” she said. “He was always sensitive to kids wanting to go to an exceptional school and having the ability, but not having the money, to do so. So, we wanted to do something about that.”

Over the years, the Russells have given to a number of programs at U.Va. Their generous annual gifts have qualified them for membership in the Rotunda Society. Michael Russell also served as a charter member of the board of directors of U.Va.’s Ridley Scholarship Fund and in 1987, his father made the first corporate gift to the fund. A few years ago, Michael and Lovette joined the Cornerstone Society through a bequest to the Ridley Fund to create an endowed, named scholarship to benefit an African-American engineering student. “We’ve made this pledge because we believe it’s important to maintain the diversity of the University,” he said.

“The University was very important to me,” Michael said, “and diversity at the University is important to Lovette and to me. And we’re in a position to do something now that will make a difference long after we’re gone.”