Another Mentor is Gone: Thanking Russ Marshall

Sitting in the shade in a cabana @ Seaview on Miami Beach thinking of Russ Marshall, who died this week. He was a mentor and friend in my college years in San Francisco.

A few years ago I spent a weekend answering the question posed by a friend, Joe Rehfeld. He asked, “How did you become who you are??

As I thought about it I realized a disproportionate number of my influences were educators like Russ Marshall. He was a huge, big-hearted man, a bass baritone, who invested his life in choral conducting at a small college.

Having been raised around classical music in my home, Russ extended the influence of my father musically, broadening it to include oratorios like Mendelssohn’s Elijah, Saint-Saens Christmas Oratorio and others.

Thanks to Russ, I studied voice during college and was on a full scholarship, singing baritone in a school sponsored performing group.

But Russ Marshall’s influence extended well beyond music. He was attentive to the lyrics, their contextual origins and meanings and passed that passion and skill on to me and countless others.

To hear him interpret a piece of sacred music was like going on a walk with a mystic who ushered you directly into God’s presence. He knew God and inspired others to pursue God deeply and personally.

The seeds of my calling to rekindle the spiritual, intellectual and creative legacy of Christians in culture were planted in the 60’s, the era of sex, drugs and rock & roll.

There I was in S.F. in the 1960’s at the very epicenter of a cultural revolution, by day singing “He watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps,” while by night listening to Jefferson Airplane at Fillmore West.

This juxtaposition of deeply sacred and wholly secular was the lens through which I became acquainted with Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, fully sacred, enfleshed and fully involved in the fallen culture.

It was Professors like Russ Marshall, Hugh Humphries, Tom Collard and Don Kenyon, who kept me grounded as a fully devoted follower of Jesus when such a choice was clearly countercultural.

Russ Marshall was also a classy, dignified, refined man in what was at that time, an anti-intellectual denomination not known for high culture. He made it OK to be a thoughtful creative for whom God is of central importance. In short, he illuminated a path for people like me and he changed our lives in the process.

So Russ has gone to be with God, but the planet is populated with people like me, who came into his orbit and were better for it.

It is now is up to us for faithfully pass on his legacy to another generation.

Posted in Staublog in February 25, 2011 by | 5 Comments »

5 Responses to Another Mentor is Gone: Thanking Russ Marshall

  1. 022511 Russ Marshall | Dick Staub on February 25, 2011 at 2:57 pm

    […] There I was in S.F. in the 1960′s at the very epicenter of a cultural revolution, by day singing “He watching over Israel, slumbers not nor sleeps,” while by night listening to Jefferson Airplane at Fillmore West. Read More. […]

  2. Dick Olsen on February 25, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    You bring back so many memories Dick. Russ, of course, the biggest memory. He led me to Christ during Spiritual Emphasis Week in 1962. After a powerful message by, I think it was Paul Currie, I went to Russ and confessed I’d never known Christ. He gently led me to Christ in a most fatherly way. I’ll never forget him and will always revere him.
    I also was influenced by Don Kenyon. Don grounded me in the scriptures. I learned the hard way how to interpret Scripture from Don. I never saw so many red lines on paper than he gave me. But I’ve never forgotten them. My love for scripture today can be traced directly back to him.
    I struggled with Greek under Tom Collard, but never forgot some of the principles he taught me. While I don’t read Greek today, I can read it well enough to use the tools to decipher the language. And then there is Hugh Humphries. I wish I had appreciated him then as much as I do now. I have developed over the years a great appreciation for philosophy. So much so, that I have a personal belief that a person entering the ministry would do well to first get a full degree in philosophy before they even pursue Biblical studies for the ministry or teaching. So much of theology has been influenced by the great philosophers.
    Well, my tribute here is really to Russ. And thank you Dick for the great article. He truly is a saint.

  3. Lois Bell on February 26, 2011 at 8:22 am

    Thank you, Dick. Russ was a giant of a man who touched many lives in a positive way. His homegoing is certainly our loss and heaven’s gain.

  4. Jeanne Sutten on February 26, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    Beautiful tribute! Sounds like he helped shape your life-only to enter our lives years later, and leave a mark on our hearts, as only you can do!
    Love you!

  5. Jim Marshall on February 28, 2011 at 6:08 am

    Hi Dick;
    Thank you for your lovely tribute to my dad. I’m not sure it can be said better. It is interesting how “dualistic” our musical influences could be in the ’60’s. I think the thing with Dad was that he inspired a great deal of affection and respect and the combination of the affection and the respect and the music was a center that would and did hold in the tumultous (sp?) times in which we found ourselves. I loved that man (he was my Dad), but I think alot of people loved that man.
    As I have grown older, I find a strong cord of Dad’s music, both as I heard it and sang it, in the rope of my faith.
    Rejoice that he has moved on, we shall yet greet the man we knew “in glorious array”.
    Love to you

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