Catawba College alumnus Philip Russ ’11, an educator and baseball coach at Bessemer City High School, made headlines in the “Gastonia Gazette” on April 5th, for his role in drawing attention to autism.
On April 4th, World Autism Awareness Day, Russ and his baseball players, along with the coach and players on the Bessemer City High School’s softball team, donned special multi-colored hats and uniforms in an effort to bring awareness to the condition. It is the fourth consecutive year that the Bessemer City High athletic program has hosted the event, and this year it was during a double-header with Piedmont Community Charter.
Russ was quoted in the April 5th “Gastonia Gazette” article about autism and the need to raise awareness: “It’s really personal for me because my fiancée’s brother is non-verbal. So to grow [up] around that and finding out how many it affects in our community, it really hits home. There are a ton of people affected, so we’re just trying to educate and advocate, while bringing awareness as a result of our game.”
Bessemer City swept the doubleheader over Piedmont Community Charter with a 13-1 and a 7-0 victory. While his team accomplished those wins, Russ says an even greater message was conveyed during the games.
Again in the “Gastonia Gazette” article, he was quoted as saying, “It’s a tradition, this is something in our baseball program that we take a lot of pride in and that’s developing young men. It’s easy to get caught up in wins and losses, but here we preach love and embracing all for who they are and whatever differences they may have.”
Russ was in Catawba’s first cohort of the Martha West Teaching Scholars. He majored in Physical Education with a minor in Post-Secondary Education. While at Catawba, he was involved in Campus Worship, FCA, Catawba Majors Club, and was also a Chapel Scholar. He played football for the Indians between 2007 and 2010.
Russ says, “I work to truly embody the philosophy I learned at Catawba by making my Vocation a Vacation. While at Catawba some of my close mentors were the late Dr. Bill Russell, Dr. Pat Whitley, Coach Chip Hester, Dr. Calvin Hunter, Dr. Ken Clapp, Jane Snider, Dr. James Stringfield and Dr. Cynthia Osterhus. These wonderful leaders were instrumental in my development as a professional educator and athletic coach. I am forever grateful for my time spent at Catawba and for the personalized educational experience I received.”