Robert I. Russin, the world-renowned sculptor who created the Spirit of Life® sculpture and fountain gracing the entrance to City of Hope, died Dec. 13. He was 93.
The artist was originally commissioned to create a basrelief on the medical center’s exterior in 1963 as a tribute to former President John F. Kennedy. But after spending time at City of Hope, seeing patients and their families and interacting with staff, Russin asked himself, “What do you put in front of a hospital to make it joyful?”
Russin spent three years on the sculpture and fountain, at one point taking a leave of absence from his academic position at the University of Wyoming to move with his family to Monrovia, Calif. The resulting nine-foot bronze statue was mounted on top of three tiers of Italian marble and centered in a 30-foot circular reflecting pool.
Seven hundred guests gathered to celebrate the fountain’s July 1967 dedication. Speakers included author Irving Stone and actor-producer Carl Reiner. More than 40 years later, the Spirit of Life sculpture continues to symbolize hope and joy.
Russin also created a bronze statue and fountain located in Heritage Park. Dedicated in 1969, it honors Evelyn Fineman, wife of former board chair Mannie Fineman.
Russin is survived by his sons Joseph, Robin and Lincoln.