Ben Russell

Ben and Luanne Russell

A $25 million gift from the Russell family will create a geriatric medicine program at Russell Medical in addition to other opportunities for senior citizens in the area.

Russell Medical president and CEO Jim Peace announced today the development of a multi-facility expansion project is possible by a generous $25 million donation by Ben and Luanne Russell, the single largest gift in the history of Russell Medical

The transformational Russell Legacy Project will be located on the hospital campus in Alexander City and include an independent living community consisting of 26 single-family cottages, as well as an assisted living facility with 32 residential units. This donation will cover the cost of constructing and equipping the Benjamin Russell Center for Advanced Care, which will provide comprehensive geriatric health care and specialty healthcare services, and the creation of the Benjamin Russell Endowed Chair in Geriatrics, by the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees pending an approval process, to be held by the medical director of the advanced care facility.

The announcement was made following a called meeting of the Russell Medical Board of Directors on Wednesday. The board’s formal resolution to commence with Phase I of its master plan, collectively called the Russell Legacy Project, was a culmination of a strategic planning process which began in 2011.

“We are overwhelmed and thrilled to make this momentous announcement,” Peace said. “Ben and Luanne’s extraordinary act of generosity reflects a caring family who are great supporters of Alexander City, the Lake Martin area and the medical community in Alabama. The Russell Legacy Project allows us to grow services centered on the largest sector who are in need of healthcare services, those citizens 65 years and older.

“As a long-standing member of our hospital board, Mr. Russell has been instrumental in our strategic plan and steadfastly supports our vision to become a regional hub for geriatric medicine. With his family’s legacy gift, this vision will become a reality.”

Peace indicated the Benjamin Russell Center for Advanced Care will be built in front of the cancer center with frontage on U.S. Highway 280 and house gerontology, women’s health and other specialty clinics.

Dr. Cynthia J. Brown, Director for the Division of Gerontology, Geriatrics, and Palliative Care at UAB says the Russells’ generosity in creating an endowed chair in geriatrics will help meet the escalating demand for this specialty and is a huge win for the area.

“Each day for the next 20 plus years, approximately 10,000 adults will turn 65, and with this trend, the demand for geriatricians is expected to skyrocket,” Brown said. “Having an endowed chair in geriatric medicine will allow Russell Medical to recruit an outstanding geriatrician, one of only 6,500 in the nation, who can serve the older adult population of the area.”

Both the Benjamin Russell Center for Advanced Care and the Benjamin Russell Endowed Chair in Geriatrics are to be named in honor of Mr. Russell’s grandfather, Benjamin Russell (1876 – 1941). Mr. Ben, as he was known to all, was the early patriarch of the Russell family and a legendary entrepreneur who began many businesses in the area, most notably Russell Corporation and Russell Lands Inc. The Russell family has provided opportunities for economic prosperity for thousands of Alabamians, and their work has enhanced the beauty of the state dramatically.

Speaking on behalf of his family, Ben Russell, chairman of the board of Russell Lands, said, “As lifelong residents of Alexander City, Luanne and I have supported the Lake Martin area and this hospital and are pleased to be able to make this gift honoring my grandfather Benjamin Russell. Mr. Ben did much for this state and its people. This gift is one way Luanne and I can recognize his contributions.”

Russell Medical chairman of the board of directors Hugh Neighbors III said the Russells’ gift will improve the area for years to come.

“This is a red-letter day in the life of Russell Medical,” Neighbors said. “We are grateful to Ben and Luanne Russell for their generosity and believe this legacy gift will have a significant and lasting positive impact on our community by offering premier care for the aging population.”

Peace said all three facilities should be completed by fall of 2022.

“We are excited and eager to commence with this transformational initiative and look forward to revealing the full scope and breadth of the Russell Legacy Project during our groundbreaking ceremony scheduled for late summer 2021,” Peace said.

Russell Medical has a long relationship with UAB. It became a member of UAB Health System in January 2021. Currently Russell Medical is licensed for 81 acute care beds with 53 active physicians in 27 medical specialties, and approximately 640 employees. Russell Medical has been serving the area since 1923.