Macey Russell ’80


By Sonya Storch Adams

Macey RussellOf the many lessons Macey Russell ’80 learned at Trinity College, one involving Professor of English Hugh Ogden and a junior year poetry class stands out.

“What I remember about it kind of goes hand in hand with Black students in the ’70s from urban backgrounds, who were trying to adjust to going to a school like Trinity,” recalls Russell, who majored in political science and then earned a J.D. from Suffolk Law School. “When we would read poetry or short stories, I was unable to connect with the writer. What am I supposed to get from this poem about a tree? Is this what people sit around and think about? I couldn’t gain any insight from that. I couldn’t culturally relate to what was written.”

Ogden, Russell says, taught him that when it comes to writing, you have to focus on what you know and what’s important to you. Fast forward to 2010, when Russell did just that and in the process won a Burton Award from the Burton Foundation in association with the Library of Congress for an article he had written about training the next generation of minority lawyers. “It’s the highest award you can receive in the legal profession as a writer,” he said. “It was a long way from Trinity to winning that award.”

Russell notes that he sees volunteering at Trinity in much the same way. “You have to find what is important to you,” he says. “Alums have to find an experience that they had, and then they can offer some perspective or guidance to someone who is going through it today.”

Russell, who played football at Trinity, mentors Bantam football student-athletes of color. His involvement started about 16 years ago, when Jerry Hansen ’51, former director of alumni relations, connected him with newly named Head Football Coach Jeff Devanney ’93. The pair agreed that Russell would come to campus to have dinner with student-athletes of color to talk about their experiences at Trinity and to offer thoughts on his time at the college. “I believe I would have benefited from having somebody like that,” Russell said. “As for the dinner, we closed the doors and talked about everything.” 

Since Russell spoke that first year, he has continued to bring other successful Black speakers to campus every September for what Devanney now calls The Macey Russell Dinner. (The 2020 event was moved to October—and Zoom—thanks to the pandemic.) Russell, a partner in the law firm of Choate, Hall & Stewart in Boston, also has been active as an alum over the years through service with the Board of Fellows, the Trinity College Alumni Association Executive Committee, and the Trinity Club of Boston, as well as by hosting Trinity events.

Devanney says he sees Russell as a role model, one who makes himself available year-round to offer advice to Trinity student-athletes of color. Devanney says, “He brings a lot of truth to our guys, and then he tells them, ‘You can do it. You can become successful.’ ”

Dakota Foster ’21 says he appreciates the varying perspectives offered by each speaker. “Whether they are graduates from Trinity or from another institution, each of their stories is different and unique in its own way. From that, we are always able to take a valuable life lesson away from the dinner, as well as expand our network and learn from their experiences.”

Russell, who met his wife of 31 years, Roberta Goganian ’80, at Trinity, says he values what he learned as a college athlete, including the importance of commitment, hard work, and teamwork. (Their two sons, Derek and Sam, also learned the same lessons playing college football, at Yale and Brown, respectively.) Russell says corporate America should be seeking new employees who understand these important life lessons.

“What I would say to those alums who say they can’t find diverse talent is that they ought to look to their own alums,” he says. “These are students who are sitting in the same seats where they sat at Trinity. … Diversity is good for business. If I had a wish, it would be for our alumni to find a way to reach out to our minority alumni professionals and provide guidance and mentoring.

“After George Floyd, people are asking me, ‘What can I do?’ ” he says. “If people could be reflective of certain advantages they had compared with others growing up and think OK, what’s the one thing I can do tomorrow? Can I pick up the phone and call somebody? Can I offer to mentor or be an adviser to someone at Trinity who didn’t grow up like me? That would be a start.”