From left to right, Columbia College Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Sandra Hamar; Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing Dixie Williams; First Lady Lee Terry Russell; President Dr. David Russell; Senior Executive Assistant Mary Brown; and Chief Human Resources Officer Patty Fischer pose for a photo Sunday, Dec. 10, at the Country Club of Missouri, where the Russells were named Citizens of the Year by the Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America.

Columbia College President Dr. David Russell and First Lady Lee Terry Russell recently were honored as Citizens of the Year by the General Omar N. Bradley Mid-Missouri Chapter of the Military Officers Association of America (MOAA). The award is presented to recipients who have exemplified the highest standards of service as past or present members of the Armed Forces or by serving the military community.

“Lee and David are unique in American higher education with the rich military backgrounds and perspectives they bring to their roles as the first couple of Columbia College,” said Bill Boston, secretary of the Mid-Missouri MOAA chapter. “Working as a team, their commitment and service to the community and to our nation is second to none.”

“Lee and David are unique in American higher education with the rich military backgrounds and perspectives they bring to their roles as the first couple of Columbia College.”

Bill Boston, secretary of the Mid-Missouri MOAA chapter

Prior to entering higher education administration, Dr. David Russell completed a 22-year Army career, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Russell served two combat tours in the Republic of Vietnam. His personal military decorations include the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal (5 Oak Leaf Clusters), and the Combat Infantryman’s Badge. Upon retirement from the Army, he began working at the University of Missouri System, where he served as chief of staff for nine different presidents. He later served six years as commissioner of higher education for the State of Missouri. Before being named the 18th president of Columbia College in 2021, he served a four-year term on the college’s board of trustees, including two years as chair.

As the daughter of an Air Force officer, Lee Terry Russell was what was commonly referred to as a “military brat.” She became a child of the world as she moved with her family to many parts of the United States, as well as the Middle East, Japan and several islands in the Pacific. While married to Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam War veteran Jay Terry, she supported him through many more moves for both accompanied and unaccompanied duty tours. She built a career in health care administration, including 10 years at MU Health Care’s Ellis Fischel Cancer Center. She later served as the chief executive officer of the Columbia Board of Realtors. She also served 10 years on the City of Columbia Planning and Zoning Commission.

Dr. David Russell and Lee Terry Russell were married in 2012 after both were widowed. Together they remain active in the community through organizations such as the Columbia Chamber of Commerce, Regional Economic Development Inc., and True North of Columbia, a nonprofit organization that supports victims of domestic and sexual violence. They are integral leaders of the Columbia College community and have established the Lee Terry Russell Military Spouse Scholarship, which is awarded annually to a CC student who is married to a member of the military community.

“Lee and I are truly humbled by this great honor,” Dr. David Russell said of the MOAA recognition. “We are proud to continue serving our military community and Columbia College. More than anything, we are thankful for the wonderful people with whom we have built relationships along the way.”

Founded in 1851 in Columbia, Missouri, Columbia College has been helping students advance their lives through higher education for more than 170 years. As a private, nonprofit institution, the college takes pride in its small classes, experienced faculty and quality educational programs. Students can enroll in Day, Evening or Online classes. Columbia College has more than 97,000 alumni worldwide. For more information, visit