It is nearly impossible for Russ Willis not to smile when talking about Southern Miss. An assistant teaching professor within the School of Management in the College of Business and Economic Development, the University has been a part of Willis’ life since he was young. Though born and raised in Pensacola, Fla., USM is a part of his family history. He began his journey as a Golden Eagle in the fall of 1985. Active in student life, Willis was a member of the tennis team, Sigma Chi and Southern Style.
After earning his degree in political science from Southern Miss, Willis continued his education at The University of Florida Fredric G. Levin College of Law where he earned his Juris Doctor. He explains though he enjoys the practice of law, he found his passion in using the framework of political science and legal studies through teaching. Willis returned to USM in 1992, first serving a role in human resources before making his way back to the classroom.
Beyond investing in his students through his teaching, Willis is a loyal supporter of multiple areas of the University, including Eagle Club, Partners for the Arts and Moffitt Health Center. In addition to 33 years of consecutive giving, he recently named the University as a remainder beneficiary of his retirement account, which will establish the Russ Willis College of Business and Economic Development Freshman Annual Scholarship.
“I’m grateful I get to do this job, and that motivates me to give,” he says. “I hope over time it will grow and continue to impact students for years to come.” The scholarship will help students participating in unpaid internships, or with travel expenses for paid internships.
Willis previously established the Russ Willis British Studies Scholarship Endowment in 2016, which awards a scholarship to a student in the College of Business and Economic Development who is participating in a business class in the British Studies Program.