Man on a Mission Helps Students Graduate And Start Out on the Right Path in Life

John Sommers II

This story appears in the June 23 print edition of Transport Topics.

INDIANAPOLIS — To the educators and students at Herron High School, Stephen Russell is a trucker with a heart — and a man on a mission to set young people on the right path in life.

Russell, board chairman of truckload carrier Celadon Group Inc., first heard buzz about the public charter school located in the shadow of downtown Indianapolis from his friends on the wine-and-cheese art reception circuit, said Joanne Taft, who heads the school’s board of directors.

It’s been a mutual love story ever since.

While many of the students who attend the school do not come from well-to-do homes, the school calls itself a classical liberal arts institution and could easily be mistaken for an exclusive private college prep school — students dressed in uniforms and all.

Russell, an art collector, took an interest in the school after a visit from a class who came to see a sculpture garden on the carrier’s headquarters grounds, Taft said.

MORE ON RUSSELL, CELADON: Photo gallery | Profile | Art passion

“He wants to talk about graduation rates. He really cares about kids,” she said of Russell.

Taft added, “These kids saw that he really cared about them and graduation rates, and about the future of our city and growing leaders.”

Russell, a product of public education in New York City, said he has long been concerned about graduation rates as low as 30% in Indianapolis’ public schools.

The graduation rate for Herron is 96%, said the head of the school, Janet McNeal.

“He came to the school to talk about graduation rates and talk with the kids,” McNeal said. “He really fell in love with the school and ended up giving us a wonderful gift that we now have Steve and Livia Russell Hall. They are both on the board of Herron High School.”

 — Eric Miller