Celia Russo | École des Ponts Business School

Celia Russo, Founder of École des Ponts Business School

Celia Russo (Celia D.M. Russo) was born on July 13, 1944 in Guildford, Surrey, England. Daughter of Pascual Russo, an Argentinian diplomat of Italian descent and Solange (Leise) Russo, a French national, Celia was born in a transcontinental and transnational context.

Raised in England and Latin America and later educated in the USA and France, Celia was a brilliant student who spoke seven languages fluently. Having been raised amongst multiple languages and cultures, Celia understood early that multiculturalism led her to easily adapt and succeed in differing environments which was an asset not only in her life but especially valuable in business.

Academic & Teaching Experience

In 1971, Celia Russo was awarded the prestigious Fulbright scholarship and in 1972 obtained a Masters of Arts from the University of Oregon in Educational Psychology and Curriculum Planning. She later went on to get a Doctor of Philosophy degree at Sorbonne University, Paris in 1983 and a Master’s of Business Administration from the Institute of Supérieur Affairs, Paris in 1986.

Celia was a visiting research fellow at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), Stanford University, and at the University of California, Berkeley and became an associate professor at the Conservatoire national des arts et métiers and worked in International Relations at the Conférence des Grandes Ecoles.

A Leader Ahead of Her Time

Celia was selected in 1980 by Jacques Tanzi – the then recently appointed Director of Ecole nationale des ponts et chaussées – to set up the newly created Department of Languages and International Culture.

Her appointment as a foreigner and as a woman, from a non-engineering background, in a wholly French, male-dominated establishment caused an uproar among the school’s Board of Governors.  Tanzi weathered the storm but it remained to Celia to prove her mettle among the students, her fellow teachers, and ultimately the Board of Governors.

That she was able to convince them, seven years later, to give her their vote of confidence and support her in setting up École des Ponts Business School in 1987 —  is a testament to her vision and determination. The Board ultimately decided unanimously to implement the business school Celia designed and to appoint Celia to run it as the Dean.

Awards & Honors

Celia Russo was the recipient of the “Vermeil” medal of the Société d’Encouragement au Progrès in 1990 and was also awarded the Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite from the President of France in 1997.

This is the second highest award given by the French Republic to honor people of distinguished merit.

Celia Russo and Simone Veil, President of the European Parliament (1992).

Celia with Bernard Kouchner, the Minister of Health and also co-founder of Doctors Without Borders, on the day she was awarded the second highest honor in France, Chevalier de l’Ordre du Merit medal. (1997)

"We do not want to be a business school like any other. The curriculum has been designed so that participants reflect on what they are and what they want to do. We want our students to be dynamic and competitive, but also to develop their sense of responsibility. If you are an intelligent, entrepreneurial, self- determined, positively ambitious person, you will find a place with us."
Celia Russo

Celia Russo's Legacy

By the time that Celia passed away, after suffering from cancer, the business school she founded had a worldwide network in Argentina, Britain, India, Morocco and China.

As Sir Graham Hill, the then Vice-Chancellor of Strathclyde University famously told Celia in 1989:

"You have designed the World University of the Future. "

Celia had foreseen the globalization of the world’s economy and what future success entailed: acquiring new forms of intelligence that go beyond being simply book-smart but being agile, responsible global citizens, capable of adaptation and reinvention in an ever changing world.

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