Russ Willis has announced that he will be transitioning from the position of Vice President for Administrative Affairs at The University of Southern Mississippi to a role with the University Foundation, effective Feb. 1. Chad Driskell, Executive Assistant to the President for External Affairs, will replace him on an interim basis, while Willis will join the staff of the USM Foundation as Assistant Director for Fundraising Initiatives and Planned Giving.
“I truly appreciate my time both as the Vice President for Administrative Affairs and Director of Human Resources, and I appreciate the support of (University President) Dr. (Martha) Saunders and the entire University community,” Willis said. “I made this decision only after careful consideration over an extended period of time, and came to the conclusion that the vice president’s role would be better served at this time by a person who could see a large number of exciting but complex building projects to fruition. I look forward to working with the University Foundation, and I wish my successor the best of luck.”
Willis was appointed as interim vice president in August 2010, and began the position on a permanent basis on July 1, 2011. His duties include the overall financial management of the University, its Physical Plant and Human Resources.
“I understand and respect Russ’ decision,” Saunders said. “Russ is a true citizen of the University who has always placed Southern Miss first, and he is doing so again. I look forward to great success from Russ in his new role.”
Saunders indicated the University will conduct an expedited national search for a permanent replacement for Willis in the vice president’s role.
Willis is a 1989 Southern Miss graduate with a degree in political science. He also holds a juris doctorate from the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
Willis joined the Southern Miss staff in 1992 and worked in Student Affairs before moving to Human Resources as associate director in 1997. He served as Director of Human Resources for eight years.
In his new role with the USM Foundation, Willis will be responsible for managing the multiple fundraising initiatives of the organization including those for new College of Business and School of Nursing buildings as well as for endowments. He will also serve as the Foundation’s planned giving officer, working with alumni and friends of the University to establish estate and deferred gifts for the benefit of Southern Miss faculty, staff and students.