Dr. Phillip Eugene Russell

January 15, 1955May 4, 2023
Obituary of Dr. Phillip Eugene Russell


Apex Funeral Home

Beloved husband, daddy, grandaddy, friend and teacher. Dr, Phillip Eugene Russell, 68, of Apex, North Carolina passed away at his home on May 4, 2023, after a long journey with early-onset Alzheimer’s. He was born in Winston Salem, NC on January 15, 1955 to Harry Eugene Russell and Ila Felicia Spainhour Russell, who preceded him in death. Phil grew up in Winston Salem working multiple odd jobs from delivering papers to auto mechanic. He skipped his senior year in high school and finished college in 3 years. It was there at App State he met Jeanne. From there they moved to West Virginia, Florida, Colorado, Boston, and then back to North Carolina, picking up some kids and lots of friends along the way. Phil achieved his Ph.D. In Materials Science and Engineering at University of Florida in 1982. Prior to this degree he completed an M.S. in Physics at West Virginia University in 1977 and a B.S. in Physics with a teaching certification from Appalachian State University in 1975. Phil spent 30 1/2 years as a Professor with the State of North Carolina: Distinguished Professor of Science Education and Physics at Appalachian State University from 2007-2016 and Research Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at North Carolina State University from 1986 to 2016; including Director of Analytical Instrumentation Facility from 1986 to 2006. He was also a Manager Electron Optics Division with JEOL 1982-1985 and Staff Scientist with Solar Energy Research Institute 1980-1982. Phil has also been a partner, director and consultant with Materials Analytical Services developing new technologies for semiconductor and analytical instrumentation fields, since 1988. Phil achieved numerous awards throughout his life. In 2018 he was named a Fellow of the Microanalysis Society (MAS) for their Legends Class, the first 26 most influential scientists in the field of microanalysis.In 2017 he was elected a Fellow of the Microscopy Society of America (MSA) for “early development of FIB methods and SPM applications, education of students and professionals in basics of electron microscopy and microanalysis, involvement in LAS activities and materials analysis entrepreneurship.” Phil received the Presidential Young Investigator Award presented by the President of the United States of America (Ronald Reagan) in recognition of ability and potential for contributing to the future vitality of the scientific and engineering effort of the Nation. (1986) Other awards include: Microbeam Analysis Society Presidential Science Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Theory and Practice of Microbeam Analysis (2003) Heinrich Award, Outstanding Scientist from Microbeam Analysis Society (1993) Cecil Hall Award from Microscopy Society of America (1993) Macros Award from Microbeam Analysis Society (1990) National Technology University Outstanding Instructor Award (1990) Outstanding Physics Alumni Award, Appalachian State University (1989) Sigmi Xi The Scientific Research Society Outstanding Young Scientist Research Award (1988) National Science Foundation Presidential Young Investigator Award (1987) Silver Award from JEOL for developing applications and marketing aspects of JSM 840 scanning electron microscope line (1984) Outstanding Achievement Award for Research Contributions in Photovoltaics, Solar Energy Research Institute (1982) Phil’s proudest accomplishment was the number of his graduate students that attained their PhD. He has 106 dissertations and master theses on his bookshelf as a proud reminder of their achievements. Phil had over 125 publications and has 3894 citations so far; an h-index of 35, which means 35 of his papers were cited more than 35 times in other publications. He continues to receive over a hundred citations each year even after retiring in 2016. Phil loved nature, the mountains and the beach, and mostly his farm in Apex “growing pine trees”. He really enjoyed flowers and birds, and could befriend almost any animal. Music was huge part of him and his personality. He loved to listen to it and jam out, grooving in his own silly dance style- especially to classic rock and bluegrass. He had unusually gifted skills in things like bowling, roller skating, pinball, and even thumb wrestling, and had a surprisingly strong grip. He could fix almost anything- or at least spend hours or days trying. He really enjoyed fishing, but especially with good friends or family. He is most likely fishing somewhere now with Don Porterfield, his friend of 46 years, who passed away in February of this year. Phil loved cheering on the Wolfpack, Florida Gators, Appalachian State, and the Carolina Hurricanes. From season tickets to bowl games to going to the beach every year to watch the ACC tournament on tv with the wonderful family friends. He enjoyed time with friends and family more than anything, from hosting weekly volleyball games in their yard, to Fourth of July parties with fireworks and roasted corn, hayrides with his tractor for kids parties, and Christmas get-togethers always filled his unique selections of music from “Merry Christmas from the Family” to “Chicken Train.” As a devoted father, despite his professional demands, somehow he managed to never miss a sporting event or recital for his children. Phil helped coach sports teams, attended practices and games, volunteered, made dance props, eventually became the stage manager for dance recitals, and even danced in a few. He came to enjoy sitting in the audience and cheering from the sidelines much more as a grandfather. Phil impacted countless lives through his teaching over the years. But beyond the classroom, his charismatic and jolly personality made sure he never met a stranger. All children gravitated towards him, as if they could just see his kindness shining around him; some even thought he might be the real Santa Claus. Friends and colleagues were impressed by his happy disposition and how he always had a smile and a laugh to accompany anything he said. He always had a sense of humor, even through the hardest and scariest phases of his illness. He taught us all that finding the humor can get us through anything, and to always remember to laugh. A former colleague stated that Phil taught them the importance and value of treating everyone with respect, to listen carefully to their input and not to judge, and to support and guide the curiosity and efforts of students and peers alike. He said a voice inside still asks, “what would Phil say?” Phil was amazingly humble for someone as accomplished as he was. He had a way of inspiring people to go beyond personal expectations because he always believed they could accomplish any task he put before them. "If you want to master something, teach it. The more you teach, the better you learn. Teaching is a powerful tool to learning." -Richard Feynman Phil is survived by his wife of 44 years, Jeanne Young Russell from Mooresville; children and their spouses, Sayward Elizabeth Grindley and Eric Scott Grindley (of Cary) and Zachary Eugene Russell and Lynda Russell (of Boone); grandchildren, Parker Rain Grindley (12), Cannon Kash Grindley (10), Cadence Sky Grindley (6), and Iris Beatrice Russell (1); brother, Steve Russell (Pat) and brother-in-law, Steve Young (Judy) and numerous nieces and nephews.  Contributions in Phillip's memory may be made to Alzheimer's Association ( or Cure Alzheimer's Fund ( A visitation for Phillip will be held Friday, May 12, 2023 from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM at Apex Funeral Home, 550 W Williams St, Apex, NC 27502. An intimate burial will take place Saturday, May 13, 2023 at Wake Memorial Park, 7002 Green Hope School Road, Cary, 27519. A celebration of life memorial service will occur Saturday, May 13, 2023 at 12:00 PM at Apex Funeral Home, 550 W Williams St, Apex, NC 27502, immediately followed by a reception with BBQ luncheon. Online access for the memorial service: Contributions in Phillip's memory may be made to Alzheimer's Association ( or Cure Alzheimer's Fund ( Fond memories and expressions of sympathy may be shared at

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Friday, May 12, 2023


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