A lifetime love of education sparks a new scholarship for LLM students

Dr. Christine Fiorella Russo, a math and literacy educator, and her husband, the late Victor Donald Russo Jr. LLM ’73, used to spend evenings discussing the importance of education, and how legal education, in particular, helps prepare students to be problem solvers and innovators, equipped to handle the country’s most pressing issues.

As a testament to these years of discussion, Dr. Christine Fiorella Russo has made a new gift to NYU Law, establishing the Victor Donald Russo Jr. Scholarship. Named in honor of her husband, who passed away on May 28, 2020, the scholarship will be awarded yearly to an LLM student, known as a Victor Donald Russo Scholar.

Victor Russo
Victor Russo

“Victor Donald was always conscious of the significance of education,” says Dr. Christine Fiorella Russo, who teaches at Washington Drive Primary School in Centerport, New York. “I also very much enjoy molding the minds of future generation and instilling in them the knowledge and values they need to function well in society,” she adds. She says that she hopes this scholarship will help make it easier for students to continue their educational pursuits.

Victor Donald Russo received an undergraduate degree from Brown University before earning his JD from St. John’s Law School in New York in 1953. He decided to continue his legal studies at NYU Law to pursue his deep interest in how US criminal codes compared with the criminal codes of foreign countries, and how other countries handled criminal justice reform.

In 1979, Russo joined a team of plaintiffs lawyers from Long Island who undertook class action litigation on behalf of US veterans against the manufacturers of the herbicide Agent Orange, which has been linked to cancer in veterans exposed to the chemical in the line of duty. The case was the largest product liability litigation in US legal history at the time, and was settled in 1984 for $180 million, providing medical and financial assistance for veterans affected by their exposure.

Over the course of his career, Russo spent more than 60 years as a trial attorney for Allstate Insurance Company, where he conducted deposition training seminars and authored in-house training manuals for the cross-examination of medical practitioners in injury cases. He also served as Allstate’s travelling trial skills educator, where he taught courses on jury selection, opening statements, cross examinations of medical experts, and closing arguments throughout Allstate’s legal offices in New York City’s five boroughs as well as in Suffolk, Nassau, Westchester and Putnam counties. Russo has also lectured on cross examination in civil action lawsuits in the Civil Court of the City of New York and the Columbian Lawyers Association of Manhattan. In 1997, Russo received the Individual Service Award from Allstate for his dedication to excellence in legal practice.

“Legal problems will never evaporate,” says Dr. Christine Fiorella Russo. “But law schools are places that produce a group of highly disciplined individuals who enrich the fabric of society and… ultimately, have the tools to solve the intricate problems confronting our country, resulting in a more positive and, hopefully, equitable world.”

Posted July 8, 2021