Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ Prize

Tribute to Fritz J. Russ and the Establishment of the Russ College of Engineering & Technology, Ohio University

These remarks were delivered by Ohio University President Dr. Roderick McDavis, at the 2005 NAE Awards Ceremony, in honor and tribute to the Russ Prize benefactor, Fritz J. Russ, who passed away in late 2004.

It is a great honor for me to represent Fritz and Dolores Russ and Ohio University at this prestigious event! We are so pleased to participate with the National Academy of Engineering in awarding the third Russ Prize for outstanding achievement in engineering.

Ohio University was established by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 and chartered in 1804, thus being the first institution of higher learning in the old Northwest Territory.

We enroll nearly 20,000 students on our main campus in Athens, and another 9,000 students on five regional campuses throughout southeast Ohio. Students on the main campus represent all 50 states and more than 100 foreign countries.

The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology – one of ten degree-granting colleges at Ohio University – was so named in 1994 in honor of our treasured friends and the college’s generous benefactors, the late Fritz Russ, and his wife, Dolores.

I’m sad to say that Fritz passed away just this past November … we know he would have loved to be here tonight, to celebrate this special award and his beloved discipline of engineering. Fritz, we miss you greatly and are humbled by all you gave to the field of engineering and to Ohio University.

Thanks to Fritz and Dolores, the Russ College serves more than 1,500 students at the baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral levels. Russ College programs of study include chemical, civil and mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, industrial systems and integrated engineering, and aviation and industrial technology.

The Russ College also is home to a number of research centers, including the internationally renowned Avionics Engineering Center, the Ohio Research Institute for Transportation and the Environment (also known as ORITE), and the Ohio Coal Research Center, among others. In addition, bioengineering is a growing area of research for the Russ College, and the Russ Prize continues to help bring visibility to that. In fact, one of our greatest sources of pride – and I speak on behalf of the Russ College as well as the university – is the Russ Prize, which we celebrate here tonight.

Both Fritz and Dolores were born in southeastern Ohio, just 15 miles from one other. Fritz graduated from Ohio University with a degree in electrical engineering in 1942. His first job was with the Naval Research Laboratory here in Washington; Dolores worked for NRL as a fiscal clerk. Among other projects, Fritz designed data collection equipment for the first U.S. post-war nuclear tests and traveled to Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands to witness the explosions in 1946.

The Russes returned to Ohio in 1948 when Fritz took a job as electronics engineer at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton; Dolores become assistant chief of personnel management in its Aircraft Radiation Laboratory. There, he rose to rank of senior electronics engineer. Among other projects, he invented the Firing Error Indicator, which measures the precise distance by which an aircraft gun misses its target and then adjusts the aim prior to the next shot.

From that point Fritz and Dolores’s story exemplifies “The American Dream.” They built their company, Systems Research Laboratories (SRL) – a firm that specialized in the research and development of electronic systems and automatic control processes – literally from the ground up. The Russes prepared the ground to build the foundation for the building themselves! They laid the framework, and with desks purchased from Goodwill, announced in 1955 that SRL was open for business.

SRL researchers designed and assembled a complex digital computer system to analyze spacecraft signals. Before the creation of NASA, SRL assisted the Air Force with testing procedures for astronaut selection, and created an instrument for space suits to monitor an astronaut’s blood pressure and relay the data to Earth. This device became the basis for central monitoring of multiple blood pressures in hospitals.

In 1969, SRL brought space-age technology into the medical arena with the development of a Pulmonary Intensive Care Unit, used to monitor pulmonary disorders in people suffering respiratory illnesses. Other SRL breakthroughs were in the areas of lasers, chemical warfare shelters, and artificial intelligence.

In 1987, SRL – with more than 1,000 employees – merged with Arvin/Calspan to encourage future growth.

Fritz and Dolores Russ, quite simply, have demonstrated a most remarkable devotion and loyalty to Ohio University. Their financial support has been singular, culminating in the endowment of one of the top three engineering prizes in the world. But beyond their financial generosity, the Russes have given of themselves to the University, remaining steadfast in their involvement and offering generously of their counsel. And, Dolores, we so appreciate your continued involvement.

We extend our heartiest congratulations to Dr. Leland C. Clark Jr., recipient of the 2005 Russ Prize. It is with great personal pleasure that I salute you, Dolores – and of course, Fritz as well. I am honored to join you and our other guests here tonight in celebrating the third awarding of the National Academy of Engineering’s Russ Prize!