Gayle Russell ’88 MBA, ’95 Ph.D of East Hartford discovered her love of learning when she came to UConn to earn her MBA in finance. She later returned to earn her doctorate and then taught as a finance professor in the United Arab Emirates.
She is currently a wealth management advisor for TIAA. Her passion for education prompted her to arrange to leave part of her estate for a scholarship for a UConn business student. We caught up with her recently to talk about her UConn memories and what she’s up to now in a new series we call 5 Questions.
Q. What’s your best memory of UConn?
A. It was the combination of professors and students—just the whole learning experience. I love learning and one of my professors, Thomas O’Brien, saw that and was the first one to get me thinking about getting a Ph.D. I think he could tell that I spent a lot of time learning the material and that I was really interested in finance.
Q. Why do you give to UConn?
A. Because I love learning, I want to share that experience with other people. I think that education is a great leveler of society. If you have a great education, it just makes a difference in your circumstances. My brother and I were the first in our family to get degrees, so I know what a difference education makes. Also, with state and federal finances the way they are, universities are not getting the same level of funding anymore, so it’s getting harder to pay for college. I worry about whether education is still going to be as available to everyone as it has been in the past. I hear about college debt today and it just worries me.
Q. If you could go back to UConn now, what would you do differently?
A. I probably would be more engaged in the social life there. I was a graduate student at the time and I started out working fulltime, so my social interaction was only with the students in my classes. I would have gone to theater, watched the basketball team, and done more social activities.
Q. What advice you would give to someone starting out in your field?
A. I would say my advice is to really understand the social side of business. It’s important to really get out there and network, get to know people professionally, and build a network of professional alliances. I did more of that in the last 10 years and realized it was something I should have done early on.
Q. What would someone be surprised to know about you?
A. The fact that I lived in Middle East as a single, professional woman. People are most surprised when I tell them that. The reason I did it is I wanted to expand my world view and it really did that.
Do you know of a fascinating alum or donor who would make a great “Five Questions with” interview? We’re looking for a wide range of interesting alums and donors who have a compelling stories to tell—from authors, celebrities, business leaders, political leaders, community leaders, researchers, artists to everyday people doing extraordinary, quirky, and interesting things in their professional or personal lives. Please send any suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.