Cover photo for Peter J. Russo Jr's Obituary

Peter J. Russo Jr

d. August 22, 2018

Peter J. Russo Jr

The Erie Community lost a champion for educational opportunity with the passing of Peter J. Russo, Jr., 55, of Erie, on Wednesday, August 22, 2018 at UPMC Presbyterian. He was born November 29, 1962 in Erie, a son of Pete and Flo Russo.

Pete was known for his quick wit, humor, unique style and depth of knowledge and compassion.

Pete was a graduate of Cathedral Prep Class of 1981, where he was a talented athlete and member of their State Champion Winning Basketball Team. He received a B.A. from Mercyhurst University and his M.S. in Psychology from William and Mary College in Williamsburg, VA, while he served as a consultant to urban school districts. He completed his Doctoral Studies at Indiana University in Terre Haute, Indiana.

Pete served as an administrator with GECAC in several programs before being asked in 2007 to take a leadership role at R. Benjamin Wiley Community Charter School. In 2008, the Wiley Charter School Board appointed Mr. Russo as Co-CEO, a role he held until his passing. Pete loved the children and staff of the Wiley Charter School, remarking to his dear parents that he considered the school his second family. He built relationships with students and their parents that continued past their graduation from the school. Among the many students that he set on a journey to college and careers was a young man whom he mentored and guided for many years, Gilbert Jordan.

Peter worked tirelessly to ensure that the students had numerous opportunities and the school flourished under his leadership. He was a gifted writer and administrator and enjoyed mentoring staff to develop their own leadership capacity. Pete enjoyed challenging his colleagues to use data and research based practices to meet student needs. He was a pioneer in the area in successfully implementing Restorative Justice practices, and was proud of the work his team did to drastically reduce out of school suspensions and eliminate expulsions.

Pete loved all types of music, and had a deep encyclopedic knowledge and respect for musicians, vocalists, composers and producers. His music collection was only surpassed by his volumes of books.

He was an avid reader and shared his passion for reading with his beloved students. From first graders to middle schoolers the students would try to find creative ways to show up in Mr. Russo's office to share a drawing, story or joke. They would enjoy "philosophical" discussions about the meaning of many quotes. Including one that he often repeated: "There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our of these is roots, the other is wings." His family, friends and Charter School colleagues know that Pete spent his life sharing these gifts.

His family plans to share Pete's collection of books with the Wiley Charter School.

In addition to his parents he is survived by three sisters, Natalie A. Corella and her husband Dr. John Corella of Summerville, SC; Mary Ellen Russo of Erie, and Stephanie A. Russo-Seneca and her husband Phil Seneca both of Erie; a brother, Jon M. Russo and wife Pam Russo of Medford, NJ; and nephews and nieces, John Joseph and Maria Corella and Lauren, Nicolas, and Nathan Russo.

Friends are invited to call at the John R. Orlando Funeral Home, Inc., 2122 Raspberry Street on Sunday from 2 to 5 and 7 to 9 p.m. and may attend a Funeral Mass on Monday at Saint George Church, 5145 Peach Street, at 10:00 a.m. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Peter J. Russo Jr, please visit our flower store.


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