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ND director wins Holy Cross award

Dan Brombach | Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By DAN BROMBACH

News Writer

Director of Student Financial Strategies Joseph Russo has dedicated his 33-year career at the University to increasing the accessibility of higher education to more students.

Last week, Russo learned he was being presented with the 2011 Spirit of Holy Cross Award. Russo and eight other honorees were chosen for the award for embodying the mission of the Congregation in their work, a press release from the Congregation of the Holy Cross stated.

“Receiving the award was very surprising and extremely humbling,” Russo said. “To get recognition for my work like this is very pleasing, but at the same time I feel like I’m just doing my job.”

The press release also cited Russo’s work outside the University, which includes publishing books on financial aid, testifying before Congress and sitting on federal committees. Russo said receiving the award enhanced his appreciation of the variety of experiences his career has afforded him.

“It reinforces in my mind how truly blessed I am to be here at Notre Dame and to have had the opportunities I’ve had,” he said.

As financial aid policy evolves and the University’s endowment is strengthened, Russo said the ability to attend Notre Dame is becoming a reality for more applicants.

“My goal is to make Notre Dame affordable for all who are accepted”, Russo said. “We’re in a position here where I may soon be able to look any student in need of financial aid in the eye and tell them, ‘We can make this happen. We can make your dream come true.'”

While Russo’s work is largely guided by rules and consistency standards, he said there is still room to incorporate the Holy Cross mission into the financial aid process.

“We create good financial aid policy here at Notre Dame through a tension between science and art. Much of what I do in deciding how to allocate financial aid is driven by regulations,” he said. “However, I also recognize that an art portion consisting of compassion, common sense, honesty and the courage to make exceptions when appropriate must balance this science out.”