Left to right, in front of UNCW banner at Homecoming, holding signs with their graduation year: Judy Matthews Russell, Jay Russell, Gavin Russell and Dawn England Russell

February 18, 2020

UNCW alumni Jay and Dawn Russell have an added incentive for frequent visits to their alma mater. Their son, Gavin Russell ’22, is a sophomore and third-generation Seahawk. The couple, who live in Fuquay-Varina, NC, also serve as representatives on the Parents Council, which keeps parents involved in UNCW activities, supports students and helps foster career opportunities for Seahawks. 

“We make it to campus several times a year – Parents Council, Homecoming, Family Weekend, etc.,” said Jay Russell. “We also attend a Triangle alumni event or two every year.” 

He and the former Dawn England met at a Delta Sigma Phi fraternity party (she was a member of Alpha Phi sorority). Both said they treasured their years at UNCW. 

“UNCW had a great Greek system, which we were very active in,” said Jay, who majored in political science. “The size of the campus was very beneficial to our college experience – small enough to be able to get to know classmates, with class sizes that were advantageous. In addition, our professors were always accessible, even outside of posted office hours.” 

Dawn Russell, who majored in elementary education, was a resident assistant in University Apartments. “I’m sad they are gone – had some great memories there!” she said. (The apartments, which suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Florence, are being replaced.) 

UNCW was woven into the fabric of Jay’s family. His mother, Judy Matthews Russell ’63, an elementary education major, was Homecoming Queen and May Queen when the school was still known as Wilmington College. She joined the Russells and their son at the Legacy Pinning Ceremony during Homecoming 2019. 

When he was considering colleges, Gavin’s parents didn’t pressure him to attend UNCW. 

“From a nostalgic/sentimental perspective, it was very important to us, but ultimately it was his decision,” Jay Russell said. “He originally had his sights set on one of the other UNCs, but after one visit to our campus, he was hooked.” 

Gavin is also following in his father’s footsteps as a political science major, with hopes of becoming a lawyer. 

Although their time as UNCW students ended years ago, the couple say they will forever be Seahawks. “What we have been most impressed with is not only the growth at UNCW, but that it has been quality growth,” Dawn Russell said. “The services available to students are exceptional.” 

-- Tricia Vance