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Muskingum e-News: Feature Stories
December 2010

The Art of Being a Muskie: DESIGNING FROM THE HEART
Marsha Russell '72

Designing From the Heart: Marsha Russell '72
Marsha designs and fabricates furniture at this custom upholstery shop in Manhattan.

Earlier this year, the magazine Elle Décor devoted its cover to the newly-renovated Martha’s Vineyard beach home of actress Meg Ryan. The interior designer that Ryan chose for the eighteen-month long renovation and decoration project was Marsha Russell ’72.

Marsha is the founder and owner of Satinwood Ltd, an interior design firm in Bedford, New York whose clients include prominent figures in business, the professions and the arts. Satinwood’s business has developed entirely through word-of-mouth, ever since Marsha first earned recognition for the renovation of her own Bedford home.

Like most successful entrepreneurs, she “eats, sleeps and breathes” her business and she wouldn’t have it any other way. For her, “It’s all about people. I think people are fascinating and interesting. It’s not about my design. Instead, I help my clients get to the essence of their own aesthetic. This is the fun part.”

Her verve and delight in people permeates everything she says, whether referring to her husband, O. Lee Tawes III, as “the best husband on the planet” or to gifted teachers, who “light up the room and make your socks go up and down.”

Marsha Russell has always followed her heart. Remembering her campus visit to Muskingum, she recalls that her “senses reeled, I noticed trees and buildings, I remember what I wore and the places I visited.” An art major, she loved Muskingum and her studies with professors such as Bill Blakesley and the late Jim Anderson, but at the time “couldn’t imagine how to do anything professional with it.”

When Marsha graduated, all she knew for certain was that she “wanted to live in a big city and travel.” She followed her heart to New York City, “a perfect place for an art lover; you’re surrounded, almost bombarded with great design everywhere you look” and became a flight attendant for American Airlines. The experience was “invaluable - travel and exposure to other cultures, architecture, art and amazing people enhanced my life and my work.”

Then one day she had a life epiphany. One of the interesting things about life epiphanies is that they often happen at unexpected times. For Marsha, it occurred at her husband’s high school reunion where, on a whim, she decided to attend a seminar given for the spouses of alumni. The speaker was another spouse, the noted writer and interior designer Alexandra Stoddard. “A light bulb went off,” says Marsha, and she knew what she was meant to do.

Within weeks, she had enrolled in interior design school in New York. She then went to work for a Soho shop that did decorative painting and made hand-painted wallpaper. She saw how designers worked and thought, “I can do that.” Her initial projects won great success and in 1996 Satinwood Ltd. was born.

Marsha Russell lives and designs from the heart. This has taken her on a fantastic life journey and to deeply fulfilling professional and personal success. When all is said and done, isn’t this what liberal arts is all about?

EVERYONE DESERVES A HAPPY CHRISTMAS

Christmas on CampusWhy is Muskingum such a special place? There are as many reasons for that as there are Muskies.

But one reason happens every year between Thanksgiving and finals – Christmas on Campus. In this annual tradition, students, faculty and staff provide gifts for area children and their families who otherwise would have no Christmas. Many student organizations – academic, athletic, Greek, honoraries, even entire floors of residence halls – has taken part during the two-decade history of this tradition.

“Everyone deserves a happy Christmas,” explained junior Kary Skelley. “We like to give back to the community we live in as well as to our families at home,” added sophomore Bethany Sines.

It’s a commitment that brings joy and also significant responsibility. “The participating families are hand-picked for us by area agencies and we provide the whole Christmas for them - stockings, cards, toys, clothing and, sometimes, food,” said Penny Selock, who initiated and has managed the program for its entire history. (Penny is Assistant to the Vice President for Student Affairs.)

One of the many moments that Penny treasures was when “a Muskingum student contacted me and said that she would like to participate because she had once been a Christmas on Campus child.”

It all began 21 years ago with a suggestion from Dr. David Skeen, now professor emeritus of psychology -- instead of buying presents for each other in the offices, give presents to children in need through local agencies.  And so a tradition was born. Since then hundreds of children and their families have had happy Christmases from the Muskingum community.

Year after year, student after student and child after child, Christmas on Campus has continued and grown, making a difference not only in the lives of the recipients, but also in the lives of the givers. As senior Kristen Lichtenauer stated, “being part of this program each year plants a seed that goes with you even after you leave Muskingum.”

FUN FACT QUIZ ANSWER

How many U.S. states have Muskingum alumni living in them? All fifty states have Muskingum alumni living in them.