Sale of business machine collection fuels scholarship fund

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 After a lifetime preserving American innovation history, business owners Tom and Mary Russo have turned their collection of antique business machines into a scholarship fund.

The Russos established the new Thomas A. & Mary Jo Russo Scholarship Fund at the Delaware Community Foundation with the proceeds from the sale of their collection of antique business machines, which included typewriters, calculators, cash registers, telegraph devices, and even a Xerox 914, the first successful commercial plain paper copier.

The Russos cultivated their collection for decades and even made it available to the public for many years through their Museum of Business and History Technology on Philadelphia Pike in Wilmington.

Last year, the Russos sold their collection at auction in Europe for six figures and transferred the money to an endowed fund at the DCF.

The new fund will generate enough to provide four renewable $5,000 annual scholarships for students from New Castle County, Chester County, Pa.;, and Delaware Co., Pa. Eligible students will demonstrate financial need and an interest in going into a business-related major in college or a vocational school.

Using his collection to support education was always important to Russo. In a 2015 interview, he talked about having local students come to the museum on a field trip.

“I went home, and I told Mary Jo, this is what it’s all about. Now we know that what we’ve spent all this time on is valuable and worthwhile for these young people,” he said. “Innovation and science and history is something you learn when you look at a product, and you hear the story of that inventor. You place it in a historical chronology, and it helps you learn history.” 

Students can apply for the Russo Scholarship and dozens of others with a single online application at delcf.org/scholarships. The deadline to apply is March 15.

To support the Russo Scholarship Fund, visit delcf.org/russo-scholarship.

Donors interested in creating their own scholarship fund at the DCF can contact Kelly Sheridan at ksheridan@delcf.org or 302.856.4393.

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