Russell Day was 103 at the 2016 reception for his former student, internationally known artist Chuck Close, at Everett’s Schack Art Center. Day, who taught art at Everett Community College1949-1976, died Monday at age 106.(Dan Bates / The Herald)

Russell Day was 103 at the 2016 reception for his former student, internationally known artist Chuck Close, at Everett’s Schack Art Center. Day, who taught art at Everett Community College1949-1976, died Monday at age 106.(Dan Bates / The Herald)

Russell Day, gifted founder of EvCC art program, dies at 106

“He was very much a teacher first,” say retired college photography instructor who worked with Day.

Russell Day was a brilliant artist and jewelry maker with a flair for bold design. He was a mentor and friend to superstar glass sculptor Dale Chihuly. Yet perhaps his greatest talent was teaching.

Today’s Everett Community College students see his name in the Parks Student Union building. In 2008, an art display space there was renamed the Russell Day Gallery in honor of the man who came to Everett Junior College in 1949. Day created a vibrant art program, establishing the college’s first gallery in the 1950s. An inspiration to students, he retired from EvCC in 1976.

Russell Day died Monday at the astonishing age of 106. He lived at the Panorama retirement community in Lacey.

“He was very much a teacher first,” said Everett’s Lloyd Weller, now retired after 45 years as an EvCC photography instructor. “He was dedicated to the best atmosphere one could imagine in the classroom. He had a way of being very honest with students.”

Internationally renowned artist Chuck Close, whose work was displayed at Everett’s Schack Art Center in 2016, was one of Day’s many students whose unique talents blossomed under his tutelage.

Students and EvCC visitors can see Day’s work in two of his pieces on campus. The Russell Day Gallery has a striking necklace crafted by Day in 1963. It’s a likeness of a woman made of sterling silver, moonstone and garnets.

Inside Whitehorse Hall, to the right of the main entrance, Day’s untitled sculpture of concrete and multicolored Blenko glass catches light from a window. Created in 1955, it was donated to the college by Day in 2015. Once restored — the 238-pound piece had been on Day’s deck — it was installed in Whitehorse. Then 103, Day was there for the 2016 dedication, an event attended by about 75 people — including Chihuly, the Seattle artist whose work is known the world over.

For years there were two Days on campus. Marjorie Day, Russell’s wife, was an EvCC English instructor. She was 95 when she died April 2, 2016. The couple had no children.

“Russell Day was an extraordinary artist and mentor, and a great friend,” said Chihuly, who studied not at EvCC but at the University of Washington. “He knew more about glass than anyone in the Pacific Northwest and taught me more about the medium than anyone.

“When I blew my first glass bubble, Russell was the person I called to come see it,” Chihuly said by email Thursday.

John Olson, EvCC’s vice president of college advancement, didn’t know Day while he taught in Everett. It was Weller, Olson said, who helped re-establish Day’s longstanding connection with the college.

The college awards an annual scholarship named for Russell and Marjorie Day. “I’d bring pieces of art from the scholarship winners to show him,” said Olson, who visited Day in Lacey through the years.

Day was at the Schack on May 26, 2016, to greet Close, his best-known former student, at a reception during the “Chuck Close Prints: Process and Collaboration” exhibition. Chihuly also was there.

In a Herald article about that invitation-only event, Close said it was Marjorie Day who encouraged him to go to junior college despite his academic struggles at Everett High School. “At the college he became an aggressively good student,” Day told The Herald that evening, and added “Chuck spent a lot of time at our house. He helped us out and became a close friend.”

Day was from Eastern Washington, Olson said. According to Marjorie Day’s obituary, published in The Olympian, she met Russell while skiing at Mount Spokane. She was then a Washington State University student. Their romance grew while he worked as a summer ranger at Mount Rainier. They married on Christmas Day 1943.

Russell Day taught art at Snohomish High School before coming to the college. “He was highly recruited by other schools, the UW and UCLA,” Olson said.

The Days travelled the world during sabbaticals and retirement. Weller said they spent a year in Africa, after which Marjorie taught a class in African literature. They explored the United States and Mexico in a motor home, and sailed to Alaska.

Their View Ridge neighborhood home, a glassy structure with koi ponds, was “a designer’s dream,” Olson said.

“It was like walking into an artwork,” agreed Weller, who retired in 2014. “Part of the reason I stayed at the college so long, they were so welcoming. They loved teaching and loved students.”

“Their home was filled with treasures from all of their fabulous journeys,” said Carie Collver, the Schack Art Center’s gallery director. “He brought a wonderful sense of drama to his work,” she said, noting Day’s “strict discipline on design.”

“I am so happy that Russell lived long enough to see the Schack completed — even having his 100th birthday here,” Collver said. “He said it was a dream come true for him.”

She remembers Day coming back from some exotic locale and using pieces he found there to make beautiful jewelry for his wife. On Thursday, she was wearing a bracelet the Days brought her from India.

“I never had the privilege to have taken a class from him,” Collver said. His former students have told her “he was a rigid grader — but that he was always right.”

Chihuly can attest to Day’s high standards.

“When I was applying to University of Wisconsin at Madison to study glassblowing, he didn’t think my portfolio piece was any good, so he pushed me to do better,” Chihuly said. Eventually, the instructor who wasn’t even Chihuly’s art teacher had him redo the work five times.

“He helped hundreds of other students in this way,” Chihuly said. “Russell lived a long and happy life, and was blessed to travel the world with his wonderful wife and partner, Marjorie. He was an important person in my life and in my career. He will be missed.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460;

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Local News

Snohomish residents Barbara Bailey, right, and Beth Jarvis sit on a gate atop a levee on Bailey’s property on Monday, May 13, 2024, at Bailey Farm in Snohomish, Washington. Bailey is concerned the expansion of nearby Harvey Field Airport will lead to levee failures during future flood events due to a reduction of space for floodwater to safely go. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Harvey Field seeks to reroute runway in floodplain, faces new pushback

Snohomish farmers and neighbors worry the project will be disruptive and worsen flooding. Ownership advised people to “read the science.”

Grayson Huff, left, a 4th grader at Pinewood Elementary, peeks around his sign during the Marysville School District budget presentation on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023 in Marysville, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State OKs Marysville plan with schools, jobs on chopping block

The revised plan would mean the loss of dozens of jobs and two schools — still to be identified — in a school district staring down a budget crunch.

IAM District 751 machinists join the picket line to support Boeing firefighters during their lockout from the company on Thursday, May 16, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Amid lockout, Boeing, union firefighters return to bargaining table

The firefighters and the planemaker held limited negotiations this week: They plan to meet again Monday, but a lockout continues.

The Trestle’s junction with I-5 is under evaluation (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Here’s your chance to give feedback on the US 2 trestle and its future

Often feel overwhelmed, vulnerable and on shaky ground? So is the trestle. A new $17 million study seeks solutions for the route east of Everett.

George Beard poses for a photo outside of the the Stanwood Library in Stanwood, Washington on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.  (Annie Barker / The Herald)
From sick to the streets: How an illness left a Stanwood man homeless

Medical bills wiped out George Beard’s savings. Left to heal in his car, he got sicker. Now, he’s desperate for housing. It could take years.

Logo for news use featuring Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Lawsuit says Snohomish County deputies not justified in Sultan shooting

Two deputies repeatedly shot an unarmed Sultan man last year, body camera video shows. An internal investigation is pending.

An airplane is parked at Gate M9 on Tuesday, May 21, 2024 at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. (Jordan Hansen/The Herald)
Good luck to Memorial Day travelers: If you’re like me, you’ll need it

I spent a night in the Chicago airport. I wouldn’t recommend it — but with flight delays near an all-time high, you might want to pack a pillow.

Editorial cartoons for Friday, May 24

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

The original Mountlake Terrace City Council, Patricia Neibel bottom right, with city attorney, sign incorporation ordinance in 1954. (Photo provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace)
Patricia Neibel, last inaugural MLT council member, dies at 97

The first woman on the council lived by the motto, “Why not me?” — on the council, at a sheriff’s office in Florida, or at a leper colony in Thailand.

To the amazement of onlookers, flames shoot out the exhaust pipes on Les Sanders’ black 1950 Mercury Coupe as he drives up and down Colby Avenue with many others in classic and custom automobiles during one of the many popular Cruzin’ to Colby events held each summer in Everett. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Cruzin’ to Colby has ‘100 years of cars’ showing off in downtown Everett

Last year, over 40,000 people came to the free event, a Memorial Day weekend tradition for nearly 25 years.

N3054V accident site. (Alaska State Trooper Photo)
Lake Stevens pilot, who lived ‘Alaska dream,’ died in Fairbanks crash

Former Snohomish County lawyer Harry “Ray” Secoy III, 63, worked as a DC-4 pilot in Alaska in the last years of his life.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.