1910 – 1985 (June 30)
A native of Hoosick Falls, New York, Robert Philip Russell was born on April 23, 1910 to Robert Russell and Bridget Darby. As a youth, he attended Saint Mary’s Academy, Hoosick Falls, and completed his high school education at Augustinian Academy, Staten Island, New York. He was received into the novitiate on September 8, 1927, made his profession of simple vows on September 9, 1928 and professed solemn vows on September 9, 1931. He received his B.A. degree in philosophy from Villanova College in 1932, and pursued theological studies at Augustinian College, Washington, DC. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop James H. Ryan at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Washington, DC, on June 11, 1935. Father Russell went on to attain an S.T.L. and a Ph.D. degree from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy, in 1938. He later pursued post-doctoral studies at Laval University, the University of Quebec, and the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1938, Father Russell was appointed to the faculty of the Philosophy Department at Villanova College. He served as department chairman from 1957 to 1967. In 1957, he established the first graduate program in philosophy at Villanova leading to the M.A. degree. Until a year before his death he taught graduate courses in philosophy, patristics and theology in the Department of Philosophy and Theology of Villanova University.
Ever interested in fostering the cause of Saint Augustine, Father Russell became one of the founders and a member of the Editorial Board of the Fathers of the Church series in 1942. In 1959, he became the founder of the annual “Saint Augustine Lecture” sponsored by Villanova University. In 1967 Father Russell was appointed Director of the Augustinian Institute at Villanova University.
In 1969, Father Russell became the founder and general editor of a new annual journal, Augustinian Studies, devoted exclusively to Augustinian studies, the first of its kind in the English language. In 1970, the Patristic Institute, “Augustinianum,” in Rome, Italy, appointed Father Russell to its faculty, where he taught one semester each year until 1983.
From 1944 to 1950, he served as Provincial Secretary. From 1959 to 1965 he served as prior of Saint Mary’s Hall, Villanova.
Father Russell died of heart failure in Fitzgerald-Mercy Hospital on June 30, 1985. The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated in Saint Thomas of Villanova Campus Church on July 2, 1985. The following day Father Russell was buried in the Augustinian plot at Calvary Cemetery, West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.