He grew up and attended public school in Toledo, Ohio. He went onto graduate from Dartmouth College in 1965 and completed Columbia Business School in 1967. The same year, Russ began his 11-year tenure at the predecessor of Citicorp in the bank’s venture capital division, which he headed for the last four years he was there.
In 1979, Russ cofounded Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, which raised a $33 million partnership to make venture capital investments. Over the last 40 years, the firm has raised 17 limited partnerships with total capital of $27 billion. It has become a leading private equity investor and owns companies in the health care and information technology industries. Russ remains a Founding Partner of the firm.
In 1991, Russ formalized his philanthropic interests by forming The Carson Family Charitable Trust, a 501(c)(3) foundation that became the focal point of his family’s charitable interests. In addition to serving on numerous corporate boards over the years, he has served as Chairman of Rockefeller University, Chairman of the Partnership for Inner-City Education, Chairman of the Columbia Business School Board of Overseers, and co-Chairman of the New York Genome Center. Russ has also served on the Boards of Trustees of Dartmouth College, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, New York–Presbyterian Hospital, and CO-OP Careers. His philanthropy has been focused on New York City in the areas of poverty, health care, education, and culture.
We recently spoke with Russ about his background with emerging medical technologies as well as his interest in focused ultrasound and philanthropy.
What is your connection to the Foundation? How did you first hear about it?
I learned about the Focused Ultrasound Foundation when I was introduced to Dr. Neal Kassell by Steve Rusckowski, CEO of Quest Diagnostics, Inc. and a Foundation Board member. Because I had always been interested in health care and innovation, I agreed to take the meeting, and that led to an ongoing commitment.
What moved you to get involved?
I was particularly interested in what Neal was doing because, earlier in my career, I had been exposed to one of the pioneer companies in the MRI field. I immediately saw that focused ultrasound had the same sort of potential to advance the treatment of patients.
What excites you most about focused ultrasound and the Foundation’s work?
It’s still early stages for the development of focused ultrasound, and it reminds me of the types of venture capital investments I used to make earlier in my career. There is still substantial regulatory and business risk, but the potential societal upside is great. In my business career, I always said that I was investing in people, not in businesses; the same thing applies here because of my respect for Neal and what he is doing. Focused ultrasound has the ability to improve the human condition.
Why do you care about focused ultrasound?
Because I spent a good part of my career investing in the health care industry, I see the potential that focused ultrasound has to be a transformational technology. It enables noninvasive treatment of conditions that were previously either untreatable or could only be treated with great pain and risk to the patient.
What impact do you hope to achieve through your philanthropy?
All of my philanthropy is focused on improving the lives of the people it touches, whether it’s improving their health, alleviating their poverty, better educating them, or raising their cultural awareness.
What do you tell others about the Foundation?
I tell others that the Focused Ultrasound Foundation has strong leadership and is addressing a challenge that can have a big payoff if it is what I think it is.
What would you tell someone who is considering making a gift to the Foundation?
I would tell them that their money will be well spent and that they are advancing a technology that may save their life or that of a family member at some point in the future.