Navy veteran Christopher Russell, BU ’98, with office manager Crystal Rogers at the Jacksonville, Fla., offices of Hunter & Associates, where Russell works as a certified public accountant.

Christopher Russell: Motivated to Succeed

After 10 years of service in the Navy, Christopher Russell, BU ’98, knew he wanted something more.

He grew up in rural New Hampshire, and following in the footsteps of his father – a petty officer who had been in the Navy eight years – he enlisted at age 18. Although Russell scored well on his SATs and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, he was restricted in his
choices because of his colorblindness.

Christopher Russell photographed in the Jacksonville, Florida offices of Hunter & Associates, where he works as a Certified Public Accountant. Russell is a Navy veteran and attended Brenau University classes while stationed in Kings Bay, Georgia. (Bob Self/Brenau University's Alumni Magazine)
(Bob Self/For Brenau University)

“I was a mechanic in the Navy, because you can’t pick a lot of the advanced ratings when you’re colorblind,” says Russell. “So I joined, and being a mechanic is hard work in the Navy. That’s when I realized pretty quickly that I didn’t want to be in the Navy my whole life.”

Russell became a machinist’s mate second class and served in 16 countries, including Guam, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand and more. At age 26, Russell was up for shore duty and wanted to find a location near a college campus.

He wound up in Kings Bay, Georgia, and enrolled in classes at Brenau’s former campus there. Russell credits his Brenau professors for motivating him and working well with military students. With a knack for mathematics, he decided to become a certified public accountant.

In Kings Bay, Russell met his wife, Filipina Ceralde, BU ’96, ’97, who spent three years in the Navy stationed in Florida and Georgia. He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in accounting, and she earned Bachelor of Science degrees in human resource management and business administration.

Russell went on to earn a Master of Accountancy at the University of North Florida. Today, he and his wife work at the same accounting firm, Hunter & Associates, in Jacksonville, Florida.

The Russells, who were contemplating another five-year tour in the Navy before completing their degrees, will always consider Brenau a game-changer. They now live in St. Augustine, Florida, with their daughter Elle, a soccer player who is considering continuing the family tradition of attending Brenau.

Although the Kings Bay campus closed after 25 years of operation, Russell says he will carry what he learned there throughout his life.

“There was an element of learning there, but there was also an attitude from the professors of, ‘I’m not going to help you until you help yourself,’” he says. “And that’s how it should be.”

Additional reporting by Kristen Oliver.

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