Southwestern Oklahoma State University

Distinguished Alumni

Gary Russi

Dr. Gary Russi - 1998

Dr. Gary Russi is serving as president of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.  Oakland, which was founded in 1957, has an enrollment of approximately 14,400 students.  Russi earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Pharmacy from SWOSU in 1969.  He then earned his doctorate in pharmacy and toxicology from the University of Kansas in 1972. 

He began a long-running tenure in 1972 at Drake University where he serves as professor pharmacology and toxicology before becoming executive assistant to the president and vice provost for planning and budgeting in 1986.  In 1989, Russi was named vice provost for academic affairs at Drake University and in 1992, was named vice president for research and strategic planning. 

Russi then moved to Oakland University where he was named vice president for academic affairs, a position he held from 1993-96.  He was named interim president in 1995 and was named the university’s fifth president in 1996. 

Russi has quickly moved Oakland forward.  He is credited with bringing to life Oakland’s 10-year strategic plan, record enrollment growth, major campus construction, and historic articulation agreements with community colleges, new market-driven degree programs, and increased community and business partnerships.  With race-course precision, Russi has begun shifting Oakland into its future with a powerful cadre of initiatives.

The Electronic Network Management Program was the result of discussions with top business and industry leaders and resulted in a market-driven program to address the national shortage for highly-skilled network managers.  It is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States. 

Another successful program of Russi’s is a Creating the Future external relations program which seeks advice and counsel from 500 or more top alumni and other movers and shakers in the Oakland region.  Russi has enjoyed a long career in higher education and has started a very successful journey at Oakland University. 

The 1964 Frederick High School graduate has two children, Chris and Jennifer.