Russ Capps '89

Russ Capps '89
Russ Capps '89

When he first stepped foot on the campus of Radford University, Russ Capps ’89 knew what he wanted to do with his life. He just didn’t know the best path to get there.

“I’ve always seen myself as being service-oriented,” Capps explains. “I’ve always wanted to make the world a better place. That was something that was instilled in me by my mother. I always felt that I could make a difference.”

Capps began his Radford story as a chemistry major, studying the subject for two years with the ultimate goal of becoming a chemical engineer.

“Organic chemistry helped me realize that chemistry wasn’t for me,” he says.

Not knowing what subject to study – only knowing it was no longer chemistry – Capps left college for two years. It was during that time he got a job with an accounting firm where he worked in data entry.

“That’s when I decided to re-enroll at Radford University and pursue my accounting degree,” he explains. “After I graduated I went back to work at that same firm. This time as an accountant.”

While Capps enjoyed the work, something was still missing. That’s when he opened up his newspaper to the help wanted section and found exactly what he wanted to do.

“It was serendipitous luck finding my first non-profit position,” says Capps. “I was looking in The Washington Post and saw an opening for an accounting manager and applied.”

Capps continues, “I ended up hitting it off with the supervisor during the interview and got the job.” The position was with the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), an organization that promotes the role of human resources as a profession while lobbying Congress on issues pertinent to labor management.

Thus began Capps’ career in the non-profit sector. After five years with SHRM, he was named director of finance for the Centre for Development and Population Activities before moving on to become the chief financial officer with the Association of Corporate Counsel. There, he spent 12 years assisting the organization’s some 40,000 members.

“Being at a non-profit just makes work a better place to be,” Capps explains.

This past year Capps was named chief operating officer for the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), a professional association that represents 28,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees, including diplomats and development professionals.

“Right now is an interesting and challenging time for us at AFSA,” Capps says. “It is so much more than just trying to get legislation passed. We have an opportunity to educate and show that we are much more than just a union.”

While he may not have taken the most direct course to get there, Capps has ultimately ended up exactly where he wanted to be – trying to make the world a better place. He is quick to thank Radford University for helping him find his way.