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Russell Sister Scholarship

Russell sisters

This scholarship was established by Gerry Sullivan in honor of his Mother, Mary Julia Russell (born 1906), and his maternal aunts, Claire L. Russell (born 1912) and Rita A. Russell (born 1916). The Russell sisters grew up in a time when daughters weren’t sent to college, as there were limited job or career opportunities for women. Daughters were expected to help put their brothers through college, as was the case in the Russell family. Mary, Claire, and Rita helped their four brothers earn their college degrees at Creighton University in Omaha.

The Russell sisters attended Mount St. Mary’s Seminary (now Mercy High) in Omaha. All three were Latin scholars and longed for higher education. Mary went to secretarial/business school after high school and was employed at George & Co., an early Omaha insurance agency. She was married in 1942 and became a homemaker and mother, the expected path for women at that time. Mary’s main intellectual pursuit was Democratic politics, including managing a Nebraska phone campaign for John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960. This was a highlight of her political role in the state.

After a brief stint at the FBI in Washington, D.C., Claire worked at Union Pacific Railroad. She began her career as a stenographer, taking dictations from men, typing letters, and making copies using carbon paper. Claire ended her career as a chief clerk in the Union Pacific Labor Relations Department. This was a significant achievement for a woman in her generation.

Rita graduated from high school at 17 and went to work as a secretary at the Farm Credit Banks in Omaha, where she continued to work for 38 years, rising to the assistant to the Personnel Officer.

Like most smart women in their generation, the Russell sisters had limited opportunity to reach their full potential due to the limited education and career choices available to them as women. All three sisters regretted not having the opportunity to attend college. Frequently, people would express pity for Claire and Rita, who never married. In those days, it was assumed that being married was the only goal for a woman. Upon hearing these remarks, Mary would bristle and retort with pride, “my sisters are career women!”

Nelson Mandela said “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” The purpose of the Russell Sister Scholarship is to inspire young women to reach their full potential through education, hopefully changing their worlds.

This scholarship provides funding for tuition, fees, and books.


  • All MCC students
  • Financial required, as determined by MCC Financial Aid through completion of FAFSA
  • Full-time student
  • Minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0 or above at time of application, and must maintain GPA during the scholarship period

Scholarships are usually offered during the spring and fall quarters. Scholarship availability varies depending on donor giving.