Russell’s Ramblings

Those who do not hear the music might think the dancer mad

Service Above Self – I’m Accepting the ZERO K Challenge

Zero_K_Flyer_finalOn September 7th, I’ll be 57! To celebrate this milestone in my life, I have accepted the North Mecklenburg Rotary Club’s ZERO K Challenge. I know many of you are asking why undertake such an arduous challenge so late in life.  Sure – it’s going to take some extra training to get into shape, to get my mind prepared, and not just compete – but actually take the Gold in the ZERO K.

That said, I am reminded of the Rotary Credo – Service Above Self. Sure, I could stay at home, preparing if not already getting started for the Carolina – Miss State Tailgating the following Day – September 10th.  But you simply have to put community service first.

In a way, I have been preparing for this event most of my adult life.  When some of my friends were running 3K, 5K, 10K… and yes, some competing in the Iron Man Marathon – I decided long ago I didn’t desire to be an Iron Man – I wanted to be a Sixty Minute Man.

While my buddies were out pounding the pavement in their sneakers, I was sitting back with a cold Brew listening to the Tams, the Catalinas, the Embers… and yes, the General himself and Chairman of the Board. Rather than sweaty socks and running shoes – I much preferred the sand under my feet, shagging to the tunes of my favorite beach music with a Carolina Girl.

I don’t take the Zero K Challenge lightly.  I have already begun the difficult training required for the event which takes place September 9th 5:30-9 pm at the Oak Street Mill in Cornelius.

It begins which proper nourishment – a fried Bologna sandwich (three slices – extra thick)005 with Duke’s Mayonnaise piled high. It’s necessary to properly coat both sides of your bread with at least 4 to 5 teaspoons of the Pride of the South! I top it off with fresh jalapeno peppers and tomatoes from my garden and two slices of Vidalia onion.  The onions and peppers should also be fried up in virgin olive oil.  I use my Gandmother Feemster’s cast iron skillet to give it just that special flavor. Texas Pete also gives it a robust kick.  Several splashes are recommended.

A good fried up bologna sandwich should be chased by a smooth brown liquor drink.  For my northern friends who are unfamiliar with the term brown liquor – I mean a great bourbon.  In this case, I’m training with Russell’s Reserve.  No – its not my special bourbon but one that I really like – a single barrel bourbon from the fine folks at Wild Turkey. Some may ask would Jack Daniels work just as well?

Perhaps, but for training purposes I think bourbon over whiskey to get the mind right. Other preferred bourbons: Jefferson Small Batch, Woodford Reserve or Knob Creek to get the blood flowing.

Not everyone can expect to reach their maximum endurance in their first ZERO K and I don’t take it lightly. My experience in Pi Kappa Phi Fraternity at Winthrop and the United States Jaycees have helped prepare me for this moment – and yes, I feel up to the task.  Many are called – but few are chosen.

So yes, I am competing – and I will take home the Gold in the first annual North Meck Rotary Club ZERO K Fundraiser to help raise awareness for the 9/11 Monument.

John Kepner, the president of our Rotary Club wholeheartedly supports my rigorous training and diet for the event.  John might I add is also the owner of one of two Huntersville Funeral Homes and Crematoriums and he along with Sam James deeply appreciates the business.

So – are you up to the challenge?  If so, Join us – you can register for the ZERO K here.

August 31, 2016 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycee) Speeches, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Millenials – Our Next Generation

Bill Russell introduction at the Winthrop University Men's Leadership Conference

Introduction at the Winthrop University Men’s Leadership Conference

In May, I had the opportunity to speak to our Hough High School Future Business Leaders of America at their year-end ceremony about leadership and commitment.  More recently, I was having dinner with a close friend and her nephew Brian.

Brian is a rising tenth grader and we touched on school, summer activities, and movies before our conversation turned to football. Brian plays linebacker for his high school football team and I listened intently as he discussed his sport.

It’s been a long time ago since I was a tenth grader but I still recall the fun I had in neighborhood pickup games.  When we couldn’t play outside, we crammed into my room and played electric football on an aluminum game board made by Tudor.  My players were hand painted to look like the Green Bay Packers and when you turned it on, the board would vibrate and hum sending the players bouncing in all different directions.

Today, Brian plays Madden NFL on a Play Station 3 with state of the art animation which looks like it is taking place in real time.  Technology over the last four decades has advanced so that today, Wii U has a glove you can slip on to play your favorite outdoor sport – tennis, golf, baseball – in the privacy of your home on a hi-def TV.

While I might be impressed by this amazing technology, Brian and the Hough High School business leaders, products of the millennial generation, are rather unfazed. The millennials are emerging as the largest generation ever (80 million strong today in the United States alone) and will soon dominate our retail and service markets as well as the emerging workforce which will shape commerce worldwide.

They are a generation for whom connectivity has always been a constant.  They grew up with the Internet, smart phones, and high speed computers where the world is simply a key stroke away.

Last month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce held an informative luncheon on “Motivating Millennials.”  Deanna Arnold with Employer’s Advantage pointed out there are tremendous cultural changes taking place in the workplace with the emergence of the Y Generation and the millennials.  This is a demographic where everything is immediate and the Internet provides billions of options. While Boomers like myself are loyal to rules and policies, and Generation X simply blended in, the millennial generation is a product of their environment and their environment has always changed daily.

They have lived in a time where the next version of everything was simply around the corner. Have a new IPhone?  The next model is simply six months away with likely updates every month.

The millennials also grew up in a culture where there are no winners and losers.  According to Arnold, “Everyone gets a trophy.” While there is individual recognition, everyone is treated the same. One of the positives is that diversity in the workplace and community is simply not an issue for a millennial.  They do not understand why anyone would make a big deal out of differences.

According to a Reason-Rupe poll, Millennials are entrepreneurial with 55% saying they would like to start their own business and that they believe (61%) that hard work is the key to success.  Millennials also have a positive view of profit and business competition.

When it comes to politics, Millennials believe more strongly in state and local governments, but largely shun party labels.  They care much more deeply about issues than they do candidates.

There is little doubt the next generation of business and community leaders will rewrite the rules when it comes to business and commerce. Studies show that the Millennial Generation needs detailed instructions regarding outcomes. Once provided, get out of the way and let them get it done.

That night after speaking to Brian, I reflected on my encounter with the young business leaders from Hough High and thought about when I was in tenth grade with my life before me.  One of my mentors was the late Senator Bobby Kennedy who was just 42 when he left an unfinished life.

Bobby reminded us, “Few will have the greatness to bend history, but each of us can work to change a small portion of the events, and then the total — all of these acts — will be written in the history of this generation.”

Very soon, America will feel the power of her young people. The millennials are our legacy. Shaped by the experiences and culture of their time with a history that has yet to be written.


August 5, 2014 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Social Causes | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New House for Pi Kappa Phi (Epsilon Eta) at Winthrop


Pi Kapp

ROCK HILL, S.C. — Pi Kappa Phi’s chapter at Winthrop University now has a new home. In June, Pi Kappa Phi properties closed on the property at 360 Park Ave., just a block down the street from Winthrop’s campus, and down the street from the former Epsilon Eta House near what is now Ebenezer Avenue Elementary School.
Currently, ten undergraduate brothers live in the house, with room for house parties this fall and a great opportunity to help with recruitment efforts.

Also, this past spring, the new Housing Corporation was founded to assist the undergraduate chapter in the house operations. Together, the chapter and housing corporation have scheduled two events in August that you’ll want to consider attending.

House Workday

Sat., August 17 8 a.m. to 4 p.m
We need extra help in painting the house, pressure washing the siding and replacing rotten wood on the front porch and handicapped-accessible ramp, landscaping and gardening. Lunch will be provided; join the Housing Corporation for drinks afterwards. If you have any tools (hammers, drill drivers, etc.) bring them with you.

360_Park_AvChapter Open House

Sat., August 24 5:30 p.m.
Join the Epsilon Eta undergraduate chapter for an official open house at 360 Park Ave. Spouses and family members are welcome to attend. This will be the chapter’s opportunity to show off what a cleaned, fixed house looks like. Also in attendance will be Winthrop’s new president, Dr. Jayne Marie Comstock.

CLICK HERE to RSVP and to view a list of the house’s current needs


July 25, 2013 Posted by | Fraternity | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Community Heroes – The Best of the Best

Bill Russell presenting Arlene Arciero Lake Norman Kiwanian of the Year in 2006

There is a marble paper weight that sits on my desk that says, “There is no limit to what can be accomplished if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”   Throughout my professional and civic career, I have been on both ends of the awards – receiving them and giving them.  As state president and later national president of the Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees), I have literally given away hundreds of awards.  It would not surprise me if the actual number eclipsed more than a thousand.

On many occasions, as the recipients were hugging me with tears of joy streaming down their cheek, they said between happy gasps that they never did it for the award.  Lest you think these were just overjoyed females who let their emotions get the best of them, quite a few were grown men bursting with pride.    I remember the feelings I had when the first Advisors Award was given out to a brother in my fraternity (Pi Kappa Phi at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC).  It was a small award, no bigger than my hand really.  There was no fancy logo, just an inscription Advisors Award presented to Bill Russell from our chapter advisor Russ Palmer.   The award came as a complete shock to me as it probably did to most of the other brothers.  Russ rarely shared any accolades on the brothers.  He preferred to be thought of as a thick skinned, tough guy.  He was.  Perhaps that’s why this award meant so much.

It’s great to be recognized among your peers.  Few people who deserve the recognition ever do what they do for the awards.  They do it, not because of what they get by doing it, but the feeling they receive because they did.   This month, the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce will recognize several special individuals – our Cashion Business Person of the Year, the Duke Energy Citizenship and Service Award, the Cherry Community Service Award as well as our Board Member and Ambassadors of the Year.  These awards honor the Best of the Best in our region.  It will be our chance to recognize people who excel at what they do.  A chance to reward someone for giving more than they ever get back.  

My chapter advisor from the fraternity passed on many years ago as have some of my fraternity brothers.  The plain little plaque that hangs in my den looks out of place hanging with others from my active civic career.  Small as it may be, it made a big impression on me.  We don’t do it for the awards but its awfully nice when our friends and associates pat you on the back –  recognizing you as the best of the best in what you do.

January 15, 2010 Posted by | Chamber of Commerce, Fraternity, Junior Chamber of Commerce (Jaycees) | , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s All Greek to Me

Chapter PresidentMention the word “Fraternity” and visions of John Belushi’s Animal House may come to mind.  Keg parties, togas, food fights, and hazing rituals are deeply etched into the public’s mind when it comes to the Greek system on college campuses.  I would be disingenuous if I said when I pledged a fraternity in college, I was searching for leadership development.  Like most college kids of my day, I was looking for a good time.  In 1978, Animal House played across the American landscape and college campuses took to “togas” like cold beer to a frosty mug.  Indeed, my first exposure to a fraternity was a Toga Party.

As a commuting student, I lived at home.  I still remember the look on mom’s face when I appeared out of my bedroom with a white bed sheet strategically wrapped around my body.  Greenery from one of her house plants topped my head, as I sauntered down the hall, with one of dad’s neckties loosely hanging around my neck, sporting my Ray Ban sunglasses.Chairman

Ours was the first national fraternity introduced to Winthrop University.  Having been a women’s college for most of its existence, it was a real culture shock to the Board of Trustees when fraternities petitioned to join the college campus.  I joined a group of young men looking to create a fraternity on campus.  And I joined looking for that good time.  However, over the next few years, that association with my new brothers shaped my character in ways I never imagined.  I held various offices in our chapter from Treasurer to Archon (President).  I represented the chapter at college functions, ran the meetings, helped recruit new members… and yes, answered to the Dean of Students for the pranks and situations college kids do get into. I really believe the Dean’s secretary had my phone number on speed dial.  All that said, the fraternity did shape the skills I would need later in life motivating, inspiring, and leading others.

s31367342081_6770In 1996, when I was hired as the chief executive officer of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, I set about to meet our community and business leaders.  Early on, I was introduced to Gary Knox, one of the Chamber’s past chairmen, who would later be elected to office as Mayor for the Town of Cornelius.  During the first meeting with Gary, we discovered that we had both joined the same fraternity – Pi Kappa Phi.  While he graduated from a chapter at UNC – Charlotte, our experience as Pi Kapps built an instant bond between us.  Ironically, it was his chapter when he was in school that participated in the chartering and initiation of my chapter in 1980, proving what a small world it really is!

Pi Kapp Bothers - Bubba, Bill, & Mark

Pi Kapp Bothers - Bubba, Bill, & Mark

As I mentioned before, the Greek system is much more than social interaction.  Our fraternity created an outreach program that serves individuals that need a helping hand.  Members of Pi Kappa Phi have raised more than $10 million, as well as thousands of man hours to renovate facilities that serve people with disabilities. 

Fraternities and sororities take young men and women and create leaders. 

Pi Kappa Phi - Epsilon Eta Chapter 2009

Pi Kappa Phi - Epsilon Eta Chapter 2009

Tomorrow those leaders will build communities.  It’s an American system modeled on an ancient civilization.  Yesterday’s philosophy working today to build a better tomorrow.  Bound together in brotherhood   –    Leaders by Choice.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Fraternity | , , , , , | 1 Comment