Randall H. Russell

President and CEO


Randall H. Russell joined the Foundation for a St. Petersburg in March 2015 as the founding President and CEO. He brings to the philanthropy sector a 30-year dossier of social innovation, creative partnerships and effective advocacy and policy work spanning 30 states. A conceptual thinker, he is particularly adept at marrying ambitious social change initiatives with creative and dynamic strategies to achieve results.

A mission-based community activist is an unusual choice to lead a private health foundation, but this background has enabled Russell to adopt fresh approaches and quickly ground his organization in best practices in 21st century health philanthropy. Under visionary board leadership, he adopted the social determinants of health framework with a focus on eliminating the social and structural barriers to good health that disproportionately impact low-income communities and people of color. Since 2016, the Foundation has committed more than $18 million toward health-equity-related investments in Pinellas County. In late 2019, the Foundation will open an Equity Center for Community Health to empower community-driven social change.

Russell began his career in the social sector in the early 1990s as an AIDS volunteer and activist in his native South. He founded/co-founded Healthcare Responses, Collaborative Solutions, the Southern AIDS Coalition, the National AIDS Housing Coalition and the Professional Association of Social Workers in HIV/AIDS, leading diverse and divergent thinking people into focused missions from multiple sectors across states, regions, and the nation. His record as a social change agent and pioneer in the field of HIV/AIDS activism, advocacy and program delivery in Alabama was profiled in the book which was later turned into a film under a different name The Secret Epidemic: The Story of AIDS and Black America.

Prior to joining the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, Russell served as the Chief Executive Officer of Lifelong, a $30 million nonprofit based in Seattle that provides home-delivered meals, housing, care coordination, and policy/advocacy efforts for those with chronic illness including HIV/AIDS. There, and at other organizations, he drove the mantra of comprehensive solutions to complicated problems. In Alabama from 1993 through 2001 under Russell’s tenure, AIDS Alabama grew from limited funding and one staff member to field a $4.7 million budget with 60+ staff and brought in more than $20 million in grants. Russell has raised more than $100 million in grants and private gifts throughout his career and leveraged those dollars at least three-fold in various ways for communities.

To fulfill his desire to create permanent change for disenfranchised communities, Russell continues to advocate for others as former president of the National AIDS Housing Coalition based in Washington, D.C. He testified before the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS during the Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations. He has served as an Aspen Fellow and an AARP fellow, and is active among health funders in Florida. A frequent speaker and experienced teacher, he has developed a college-level course on the intersection of philanthropy, social change and innovation from a social justice perspective.

A native of Knoxville, Tennessee, Russell was raised by a mother who taught at Knoxville College, a Historically black liberal arts college, and a father whose life mantra was “…get a poor man a good job.” He is a proud alum of the University of Indiana (Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Music Performance) and the University of Alabama (Master of Social Work). Before embarking on a career in the social sector, Russell worked as a professional bassoonist in the Indianapolis Symphony and spent many years as a marketing, public relations and development employee for six orchestras across the United States. He worked with Doc Severinsen to launch multiple Orchestral Pops series, led European tours, and negotiated recording contracts for major orchestras in addition to achieving sold out subscription series for three different orchestras.