Dr. Walter Bo Russell, a longtime professor of Biola exposition who influenced thousands of students through his teaching and mentorship, passed away on Sept. 3, 2022. Walt faithfully taught at Biola and Talbot School of Theology for more than 30 years before his retirement in 2018. He will always be remembered for a number of outstanding qualities including his humor, kindness, passion for the church, and his commitment to God’s Word. Walt will be remembered best for how he loved incredibly well. He loved the Word of God. He loved his family and the larger church family. And he loved his students.
Although students learned a great amount in their classes with Walt, it was Walt's particular attention to equipping his students “for the work of ministry” that was most valuable (Eph. 4:11-12). With this, he would always emphasize discovering and unleashing one’s spiritual gifts for the local church. This would later become his final book, The Sustainable Church: Growing Ministry Around the Sheep Not Just the Shepherds. He would spend time talking with students after class walking to and in his office. On many occasions, he invited students to go to lunch with him at the local Carl’s Jr. to talk about issues of life, character, and ministry. And he would always pick up the tab for lunch.
One of Walt’s greatest contributions was his book Playing with Fire: How the Bible Ignites Change in Your Soul, which is a summary of his Hermeneutics class. This book is life-changing! Walt’s passion for teaching and correct Bible interpretation was contagious. But it wasn’t just the knowledge part that he was concerned about. He wanted to solidify that people were aligned with what they learned and how they lived. He wanted the saints to be faithful in word and deed. Walt deeply impressed the importance of the Word of God in all of his students. He was a man of a number of outstanding qualities including his humor, kindness, passion for the church, and his commitment to God’s Word. What I remember most about Walt was how he loved incredibly well. He loved the Word of God. He loved his family and the larger church family. And he loved his students. He also presided over my wedding. I am indebted to Walt as a mentor to me. Walt Russell has definitely left a legacy at Biola University and throughout the world.
Walt was also always about partnerships. He partnered with his wonderful bride, Marty, in so many ways. He did ministry with her in the church, at Biola University, and at a number of conferences and speaking engagements all over the nation. He and Marty met with countless couples for double dates, for meals at their home, and for counseling.
Fondly recalling Walt’s friendship, Talbot’s dean of faculty, Scott Rae, notes, “Walt Russell was one of my closest friends on the Talbot faculty, and I got to see his impact up close. He had a huge heart for building into the lives of his students and he was a mentor to more students than I can count. I loved his quirky sense of humor and he was easily the most generous person I have known. Talbot has lost someone who really understood what it meant to pour himself into the lives of his students."
We will miss Walt and his ministry. He truly was a spiritual father figure to many. We are grateful for Walt’s profound impact on the Talbot community and throughout the world. Walt is survived by his wife Marty, and their children Elizabeth (and her husband Justin) and Jonathan (and his wife Noel).