George and Edna Russian Endowed Scholarship for Civil Engineering
A conversation with David M. Kudlak.
Why did you choose to create a scholarship at Auburn University?
Attending Auburn was a truly life changing experience for me, and my grandparents (George and Edna Russian) played a key part in helping me get my education. I wanted to keep their spirit alive at Auburn and created the scholarship in their name in 2000 following my grandfather’s passing. I also wanted to help others obtain an Auburn engineering degree, as my grandparents had helped me.
What would you want the recipients of this scholarship to know about the person for whom it is named?
My grandparents were Depression Era survivors and taught me many life lessons that established the strong core values of honesty, integrity, and generosity from which I feel that I have truly benefited. During my time at Auburn they provided me with a $200 check every month and a I received a “care package” that contained many goodie items along with some essentials. I was able to share these goodies and essentials with my fraternity brothers, who also benefited from my grandparents’s generosity. That $200 per month, coupled with my NROTC scholarship stipend, allowed me to focus on my studies and work only part-time jobs rather than working full-time while attending. They are two people that I have always considered heroes.
Tell us about your Auburn story, favorite tradition, a “War Eagle!” moment, or what Auburn has meant to you.
I arrived at Auburn in September of 1982, at the age of 21, with everything I owned in my car and a grand total of $3,000 to my name. I had worked several years in heavy commercial construction but had longed for higher education. I had applied and been accepted as a pre-engineering student but did not have any idea how I would ultimately fund my education, as my immediate family were not in a position to help financially. The Auburn family wrapped its collective arms around me and guided me to acquire grants, student loans, and ultimately fueled my desire for military service and acceptance into the NROTC scholarship program. I ultimately graduated in December 1986 with a BS in Civil Engineering owing $10,000 in student loans and eight years of my life to the United States Marine Corps. It was by far the best investment I ever made. It is at Auburn where I became a man, an engineer, a Marine, and began a life journey that led to a global engineering career with ExxonMobil. I am so very grateful for everything Auburn has provided to me throughout my life, and am proud to be an Auburn Tiger. War Eagle!
What do you hope your recipients gain through this scholarship?
I hope this scholarship helps ease the financial burden of receiving an engineering education by providing support which will allow them to focus on their academic studies and not need to work full-time.