Visitation at the Funeral Home
Visitation at the Funeral Home
Visitation at the Church
Obituary of Ryan Edward Russell
Ryan Edward Russell, renowned designer, entrepreneur, educator and most recently, best-selling children's book author and illustrator, peacefully passed away at home in State College, PA on Monday after bravely battling brain cancer for the last 17 months. He was 41.
Ryan was born in Philadelphia in 1982 and moved to State College, PA in elementary school, where he fell in love with art and sports.
These two passions: art/design and athletics, would continue to define and guide the course of his life over the years, as he went on to join the football team at St. Norbert's college in Wisconsin while earning his Bachelor's Degree in graphic arts, before returning to State College and earning a Master of Fine Arts at Penn State University in 2006.
Ryan became one of the youngest tenure-track professors in Penn State history when he joined the Graphic Design faculty in 2007 and quickly made a name for himself as a tough, demanding, yet highly sought-after educator. Ryan spent over 17 years inspiring, mentoring, and leaving an indelible impact on the thousands of students who sat in his classroom and went on to have careers at some of the world's best design studios and most well-known companies.
Once word spread that Ryan was ill, his former students banded together to create a book celebrating Ryan and all he has done for them. Their words best summarize what made Ryan such an impactful professor:
"There is something so special about being taught by Ryan Russell. He had a pure trust in his students to make mistakes, be curious, and innovate in a way that was simply awesome."
"Because you were such a phenomenal teacher Ryan, a piece of you is within all of those you taught. Because of you, I know what I am capable of. I know my worth."
"What I will always remember about Ryan is that he had a way of making every student feel seen."
That ability to make others feel seen and heard was juxtaposed to Ryan's other dominant personality trait - a confident magnetism that pulled everyone around him into his orbit. Ryan's friends, family and co-workers loved his insatiable curiosity, his thousand-watt smile, his brilliant mind, his incredible sense of humor, his passion for the task at hand and his unwavering commitment to always make it (whatever "it" was), a job well done.
There was nothing Ryan valued more than hard work, determination, hustle and grit. He believed that every human being is capable of so much more than they realize, and pushed everyone he met to be better - even if that meant sharing blunt, (sometimes hurtful), but incredibly honest critiques.
As one student shared "I'll never forget working on a project that incorporated a lion, and Ryan asking "Did you even look at a picture of a lion before you made that?""
Ryan's professional accomplishments, awards and accolades are so numerous, it would be impossible to list them (he actually did have to list them recently - and it took 65 pages to capture it all) but to highlight a few:
His studio work has been featured in some of the world's most renowned design publications such as Print's Regional Design Annual, Communication Arts, Graphis New Talent, and UCDA Designer Magazine.
His posters (that comment on hot-button political, social, and environmental topics) have been exhibited at elite international design exhibitions and his work has been/is included in numerous museum collections around the world, including the Jan Kaniorek Gallery in Slovakia; the Grupo Catalografica in Bolivia; Muzeum Plakatu w Wilanowie, in Poland; and the Danish Poster Museum in Denmark.
As an author, Ryan has been featured in publications such as Novum, The Conversationalist, and the Huffington Post. Most recently, during his battle against glioblastoma, Ryan was inspired to write and illustrate a children's book "My Annoying, Irritating, Always-In-The Way Shadow", because he thought it was important for his children to always know the power of perspective. It's not what happens to you, but how you react to it.
At the time of this printing, My Annoying, Irritating, Always-In-The Way Shadow" currently sits as the #1 new release in children's comic and graphic novels on amazon.
Ryan applied his mastery of the creative design process –solving problems and scaling concepts – to the business world, co-founding digital marketing technology platform Twenty Over Ten in 2016. Ryan served as the Head of Business & Strategy of the software company and guided its growth to 40 employees serving several thousand customers throughout the United States in just under 5 years, then successfully sold the business in 2020 to FMG Suite in San Diego, CA.
Leading great teams and being a team player was always important to Ryan, who always had a natural athletic ability, and to whom sports was a big part of his life. From his early days playing in the State College Little League and State High varsity football and baseball teams to his four years in college on the St. Norbert's Football team as a wide receiver, Ryan loved sports not just for the game itself but for the camaraderie, competition, and physical challenges they presented.
Ryan is survived by his beloved wife Samantha and his spirit will be carried on by three children he adored: Hudson, Grace and Theodore (Teddy). He is also survived by a big, noisy extended family that includes his parents Ed and Mickey Russell, grandmother Catherine (Cass) Russell, sister Kimberly (Callahan), brother-in-law Justin Callahan, nephew Will Callahan and niece Ellie Callahan, mother-in-law Mary Culovic, father-in-law Salvatore Culovic, brother-in-law Anthony Culovic, sister-in-law Mary Culovic, brother-in-law Nicholas Culovic, brother-in-law Zach Culovic, and sister-in-law Emily Culovic. In addition, there are many other dear family members, former students, colleagues and friends that are too numerous to mention.
Ryan is reunited with his grandfathers, Edward "Pop" Russell and Clarence "Budrick" Jones, grandmother Barbara "Bubbles" Jones and nephew Kyle Callahan.
Visitation will be held at Koch Funeral Home in State College on Thursday, Nov 2nd from 2-4 PM and 6-8 PM, where a selection of Ryan's works will also be displayed.
A funeral mass will be held for Ryan on Friday, November 3rd at 11:00 am at Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church in State College, PA. There will also be a visitation preceding the mass at the church from 9:00 - 11:00.
In lieu of flowers, or in support of how Ryan has touched your lives, his family asks that donations be made to the National Brain Tumor Society (mention Ryan Russell), who are working to find treatments and a cure for this awful disease.
"When you are faced with a challenge there are only two options. You can turn away and hide, or you can go headfirst into the storm. We will all fail at times. That's part of life. But let's be brave enough to run headfirst into the storm. And if we stumble and fall, that's okay, that's part of the process. But if you fall, fall forward. Because a little bit of progress is still a step in the right direction". - Ryan Russell
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