Brooks Russell '72 pictured in 1993
Brooks Russell ’72, a longtime Emerson administrator who is remembered best for his outsized personality, died January 29 at the Kaplan Family Hospice House in Danvers. He was 84 and had been a resident of Wakefield, Massachusetts.
A friend to generations of Emerson students, Russell, a theater professional, spent much of his career at the College, holding a variety of posts, including assistant to the registrar, director of special events, faculty member, manager of the Cutler Majestic Theatre, and Commencement director, managing Commencements throughout the 1990s.
President Emerita Jackie Liebergott remembered Russell as “right out of a Noel Coward play. What he really loved was repartee. And he saw Emerson College as an oasis, offering support to creative people. His wit was so sharp that many of the people who fenced with him were not aware of getting cut. There was no one like our Brooksie!”
Brooks Russell '72 at his Emerson office in 1977
Emerson President Lee Pelton said, “The College is richer for having had Brooks as an integral member of the Emerson community for so many years. We extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends.”
Brooks attended Emerson later in life, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1972 at the age of 42.
Neil Davin '72, longtime Emerson staffer, said, “Brooks Russell was a phenomenon at Emerson College from the day he arrived on campus as a 38-year old freshman in 1968. That year I also entered as a freshman, though at the tender age of 17. I worked with Brooks in many capacities over the next three decades. A favorite memory is the personal tour he gave me of the Cutler Majestic Theatre shortly after Emerson purchased it. We toured from the balcony to the basement, including the now-closed tunnel from the subway to the Majestic and Plymouth theaters. Brooks was in his element! He could see the potential. I don't think there was anything he enjoyed more than managing the theater when the College opened it.”
Peggy Bowe ’72 recalled her classmate. “Brooks was an unforgettable character. So many of my memories of Emerson have Brooks as an integral part of them. He was older than the rest of us, and he had made a conscious decision to go to college and that was the time to do it. He took it seriously, so much so that he was valedictorian of our class. He gave a hilarious speech I still remember today.”
Born in Melrose, Massachusetts, in 1930, Russell was a graduate of Wakefield High School. He later attended the Bishop Lee School of Theater and apprenticed as an actor at the New London Barn Playhouse in New Hampshire.
Russell enlisted in the Air Force and served during the Korean War and at Maguire Air Force Base in New Jersey. He joined the Jerome Cargill Productions in New York City as a director and directed shows across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Bermuda. Russell was part owner and producer at the New London Barn Playhouse and had co-produced and directed at the Keene Summer Theater. During his career, he worked with notables such as Bob Hope, Robert Culp, and Irene Ryan.
Funeral services will be held Saturday, January 31, at 12:30 p.m. at First Baptist Church, 8 Lafayette Street, Wakefield. Just prior to the funeral service, visiting hours will be held 10 am to 12:00 pm at McDonald Funeral Home, 19 Yale Avenue, Wakefield.
Gifts in Russell’s memory may be made to: Emerson College, 120 Boylston St., Boston, Mass. 02116-4624 (payable to Emerson College; designate the Brooks Russell Memorial Fund) or visit emerson.edu/giving and click Select Multiple or Support Other, click Continue, and fill the gift comment box with the note ‘Brooks Russell Memorial Fund’.