An intramural sports field at Freed-Hardeman University will be dedicated to the life and memory of a recent alumnus Thursday, April 8, 2021.
Lucas Russo, a 2019 graduate from Burnsville, Mississippi, died Nov. 9, 2020, following surgery. Shortly after his death, students launched a fundraising effort to improve the field where Russo had competed in many intramural games. Their crowd-funding campaign netted more than $20,000 in two weeks to improve the field.
The dedication ceremony will include remarks from FHU President David R. Shannon and Beverly Russo, the honoree’s mother, followed by a ceremonial first pitch by Shannon. Adam Cross, FHU regional development director who coordinated the fundraising activities, will then pitch to Richard Russo, Sr., the honoree’s father, for the first hit. A slide show encapsulating Lucas Russo’s time at FHU will also be shown.
Phase 1 of the improvement project is nearing completion. The projects have included general cleanup of the field and surrounding area, refurbishing the scoreboard, painting the bleachers, installing a new fence, and constructing a press box and pavilion. Richard Russo/Nathan McPheters Construction built the pavilion with materials donated by Woody and Crystal Loden. Volunteers led by Richard Russo, Sr.; Shannon Sewell, FHU director of facilities; and Cross did the remainder of the work. More than 40 volunteers including students, FHU faculty and staff, and members of the Russo family contributed their time and talent.
Phase 2 of the project will be completed this summer when weather conditions are more suitable. The current infield dirt will be removed and 25 tons of clay/sand infield dirt will replace it. New bases and pitching rubber will be installed and the outfield will be improved.
Lucas Russo earned a Bachelor of Social Work and a Bachelor of Science in youth ministry from FHU. He was an Ayers Scholar, a member of Phi Kappa Alpha, emcee of Makin’ Music, member of the Student Government Association, and member of intramural sports teams. He also worked at Mid-South Youth Camp.
Organizers of the campaign to improve and rename the field said Russo, “loved people and made sure they knew they were loved.” They commented on his big personality, big smile and big laugh. “His influence went far beyond any particular group or club; he had a big impact on everyone he met,” they said.
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