By Celeste Paulson
Studying on the bus route to Oklahoma once a week, attending class to earn her doctorate from the University of Oklahoma, then traveling back to teach her own class the next morning: this was the dedication Dr. Natalie Russell showed toward her students.
Russell, an instructor at Amarillo College for 32 years, died this year.
Russell grew up in Canyon where she spent time playing with her sister Billie and cousin, Jane Juett, in her basement.
“When we were little we had a lot of fun playing,” Juett said. “They had the neatest things like child sized telescopes and children’s ovens. She was always very outgoing and energetic as a child. She never met a stranger. ”
Russell became an physical education instructor at AC in 1947. Her career spanned the years between 1947 to 1955 and from 1958 to 1982.
“Dr. Natalie Russell served as professor and department chair of Women’s Physical Education and later of the combined Men’s and Women’s Physical Education Department at Amarillo College,” said Dr. Paul Matney, Amarillo College president. “Dr. Russell was a strong, confident, disciplined, loyal and dedicated faculty member. She always cared about her students.”
Russell’s dedication to her career was matched by her dedication to her husband, Oliver Lee Russell, during a marriage that began on Sep. 9, 1944 and lasted 69 years.
“She had gone to Colorado to teach and that’s where she met Lee,” Juett said. “He was a naval pilot. She’s so funny, she said that her friends had wanted her to meet this guy and she said she wasn’t interested, and they ended up getting married not too long after that.”
Juett said Oliver was Russell’s biggest supporter throughout her career advancements.
“I’ve never seen a couple more devoted to each other as they were,” Juett said.
Although Russell did not have children of her own, she showed compassion and understanding for her students and treated them like family.
“Now she loved her students,” Juett said. “She and Lee never had children and that’s why I think she loved her students so. She acted like they were her own. She was such an inspiration to those students.”
During her time at AC, Russell became a club sponsor of numerous athletic teams and also became the sponsor of the Sixth Column’, a fraternity.
“Dr. Russell was inaugurated in 1970 and served as the sponsor of the AC Badger Belles, a girl’s performance dance team, which performed at AC basketball games and in other venues in the city,” said Matney.
Russell was called on often to serve on key college committees, said Matney. Other accomplishments included writing a book on the history of Lake Tanglewood and having Russell Hall on the Washington Street Campus was named in her honor.
“Dr. Natalie Russell made many significant contributions to Amarillo College, was well-respected by everyone, and she will be missed by many,” said Matney. “Simply put, Natalie is legendary in the history of Amarillo College.”