Class of 1987
Thomas A. Russell, pioneered the Canadian automobile industry. President of CCM and Massey-Harris.
Born on a farm near Exeter, Ontario in 1887, Russell graduated from the University of Toronto as an honour student in political economy. While teaching at the university, the business world captured his imagination.
At 24, he was persuaded to manage the troubled Canada Cycle and Motor Company Limited (CCM). His vision soon moved from bicycles to a dream of building a Canadian car. It was 1905 when his first car emerged from the Russell Motor Car Company and by 1910 it was producing everything from buses to delivery and fire trucks. “Build up to a standard, not down to a price” was Russell’s motto.
During World War I, Russell retooled his company to produce supplies for the Allies. Ever mindful of his passion for cars, he entered a joint venture partnership with car maker Willys-Overland Limited and in 1915 became its President.
Amid the full force of the Depression, the Bank of Commerce persuaded Russell to assume the presidency of the financially crippled Massey-Harris Company. For 10 years Russell led the company. Through aggressive rebuilding, it regained strength and developed the revolutionary self propelled combine.
Russell believed every good citizen must have a “public soul.” He had an enormous tenacity and once he set his hand on something, he never gave up.