Prior to his 2013 retirement, Gary Russi served as president of Oakland University in Michigan, a position he assumed in 1996 after two years as vice president of academic affairs. He earned his PhD in pharmacology and toxicology in 1972 from the University of Kansas and subsequently taught those subjects as a professor at Drake University before advancing to various senior administrative positions there. At Oakland University, Dr. Gary Russi was instrumental in setting and meeting the challenging goal of changing the school from a comprehensive university to a major research institution.
Established by a generous gift from Alfred and Matilda Dodge Wilson, which included $2 million in funding as well as the couple’s 1,500-acre estate in Oakland County, Michigan, the University of Michigan-Oakland enrolled its first students in 1959. It was renamed Oakland University in 1963 and became independent in 1970.
Oakland University today educates more than 20,000 undergraduate and graduate students, most of whom are Michigan residents. It offers bachelor’s degrees in 139 different programs, and advanced degrees and certificates in 125. The William Beaumont School of Medicine, which opened in 2011, serves 325 medical students, and the Human Health Building, which opened in 2012, now houses the university’s schools of health sciences and nursing and provides them with state-of-the-art research facilities, clinical spaces, and laboratories.
As it progresses toward its goal of becoming one of America’s major research institutions, Oakland University is home to numerous research projects and centers, including the Center for Biomedical Research, the Galileo Institute for Teacher Leadership, the Fastening and Joining Research Institute, and the Ken Morris Center for the Study of Labor and Work, among many others.