`Heaven sent' donation to be celebrated

Retiree gave $1 million toward Calvert Hall stadium

September 10, 1999|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

Paul Angelo Russo says he doesn't like to give away money. But don't believe it.

The 84-year-old retiree recently handed over $1 million to help pay for Calvert Hall College's new stadium complex, which was used for the first time last weekend.

Russo's generosity to the Roman Catholic high school for boys in Towson -- from which his son Andrew graduated in 1962 -- will be celebrated with a stadium dedication Wednesday, said school president Brother Kevin Patrick Strong.

"This gift, it was heaven sent," said Strong, who added that Russo's donation will serve generations of students who will use the sports stadium and fields. "God touched his heart in a certain way," he said.

Russo, a native of Sicily, says he's invited about 130 friends to the dedication. "I'm a member of every known Italian culture club in the state of Maryland," he said, laughing. "I've got lots of friends."

At Russo's side will be his wife, Jen, and other family members. Students and teachers will also watch as Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore William C. Newman, himself a 1946 Calvert Hall graduate, blesses the athletic facility.

"Oh, it will be fun," said Russo, who lives in Towson and drives past the stadium when he runs errands. He's pleased with a recent addition -- a row of large, red letters that spell out his name.

The $5 million stadium project -- which includes a track, baseball diamond, practice fields and tennis courts -- is the largest addition to the school's LaSalle Road campus since a fine arts center was built in the 1980s.

Early on, Calvert Hall officials promised to name the 3,000-seat stadium after the individual, family or business that donated $1 million to the fund. They are counting on contributions from others -- alumni and parents -- to pay for the rest of the project. "We're almost there," said Strong, referring to the school's fund-raising goal.

Donations of $50,000 or $250,000 will buy naming rights to the tennis courts or track.

Russo, who earned much of his wealth by renting radios and televisions to hospital patients, says he was happy to help build Calvert Hall's stadium.

"I made money and now I am giving it away," he said.

Recently, Russo donated $500,000 to the Maryland School for the Blind to build the Jen C. Russo Fine Arts Center, named in honor of his wife.

Russo said he paid to renovate the San Cataldo and San Francesco di Paula churches in Enna, Italy, his birthplace, in memory of his parents, Angelo and Maria Crocifissa, who brought him to Baltimore when he was 13 years old.

"They were my world," Russo said. "Without them, I would be nothing."

Pub Date: 9/10/99

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