October 2022 Alum of the Month: Christina Bechhold Russ ’03
Hotchkiss | Christina Bechhold Russ '03

Christina Bechhold Russ ’03 is a venture capitalist and sought-after speaker who has found success in a field historically dominated by men. She currently leads Truist Ventures, where her team “invests in and acquires exceptional high-growth founders and funds that bring surprise and delight to financial services.” She was drawn to finance after being selected for the business school honors program at Boston College. “I have a love of building things and am fascinated by technology’s ability to create,” she says.

She has always been interested in new business models. “I started out as an angel investor, co-founding Empire Angels, a member-led group and fund investing in early-stage companies. It was the first angel group for millennials, with peers investing in peers,” she explained. “I enjoyed that work immensely—venture capital is a great career for anyone with strong intellectual curiosity.”

While women are becoming more involved in finance and venture capital, Russ says they still make up only about 15 percent of check writers at venture capital funds. According to Russ, “It’s a similar percentage of women in executive roles in finance more broadly. We need more women at the table, in the boardroom, making the decisions. The outcomes are empirically better when they are.”

Having made her mark in venture capital, she participated in a TEDWomen event where she spoke about women, wealth, and powering entrepreneurship. “I credit Hotchkiss Speech and Debate (the Vavpetics) and Hotchkiss Drama (Sarah Tames) for my comfort level as a speaker, which has helped me professionally,” she notes.

Russ was recognized by the New York Business Journal as a 2016 Woman of Influence. More recently, she was named a Woman to Watch in Venture Capital by Business Insider and as one of Britain’s 35 Women in Business Under 35 by the Daily Telegraph. She is a contributor to publications including the Wall Street Journal and Entrepreneur, writing about startups and small business. Again, she draws on skills she learned at Hotchkiss. “Being able to organize your thoughts and express them effectively is critical. Writing daily themes helps you refine how you communicate. Great writing absorbs the reader, changes perceptions, and illuminates ideas. Publications are always looking for those voices.”

Hotchkiss was Russ’s only choice for her private school education. “It was Hotchkiss or nothing! My parents went to boarding school — my mother attended Northfield Mount Hermon, and my father is Hotchkiss Class of 1972. They spoke about their experiences with incredible fondness. I can probably tell you as many stories from my father’s time in Lakeville as my own. My grandfather was a member of the Class of 1948.”

She says her experience at Hotchkiss was profound thanks to the exceptional courses and faculty members. “The Holocaust with Lou Pressman was one of the reasons I chose to double major in philosophy in college. Tom Flemma’s AP U.S. history lessons on understanding source material are still relevant. Jim Fornshell, Chris Burchfield, and Julia Trethaway were standouts, and Tim Acker wrote a wonderful recommendation for my application to study abroad in my junior year of college.”

Russ participated in numerous extracurricular activities as a Bearcat. “I loved the comradery of team sports and served as captain of both cross country and track and field,” she says. Her Hotchkiss trip to Antarctica during her upper-mid year remains memorable. “I spotted the first iceberg, and my prize was a coffee table book about our boat signed by our captain. It remains on top of the stack in my living room.”

When classmate Bennett Rathbun ’03 decided to launch the nonprofit organization Hope on a String in 2011, he asked Russ to help. “My husband and I actually met there as founding board members,” she says. “I’m proud of what Hope on a String has accomplished, building community through music and the performing arts in Haiti. Bennett did a tremendous job, and we were honored to be involved.”

Russ has made financially supporting Hotchkiss a priority. “My years there helped form the core of who I am today, and many of my closest friends are my classmates. I want to ensure the School is a place of growth and opportunity for many more generations. I am grateful to the many people who made my experience so formative. I credit my time there for much of my success.”

She has also given her time to Hotchkiss as a member of the School’s Board of Governors. “As chair of the nominating committee for School awards, I helped identify and highlight achievement—there is great value in sharing stories and showing current students what’s possible. We chose the first female Alumni Award recipient, Allison Janney ’77. You can’t emulate what you can’t see. That was a very important moment for all women.”

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