Campus: CSU East Bay -- March 30, 2005

Longtime CSUEB Professor Honored by Mathematical Association

Russ Merris, Cal State East Bay professor who pioneered a program for assessing math deficiencies in high school students, has received a distinguished teaching award from the Mathematical Association of America.

The association's Northern California, Nevada and Hawaii section honored Merris with the Distinguished College or University Teaching of Mathematics Award for 2005 at St. Mary's College in Moraga. Even more exciting than getting the award, Merris said, was sharing the moment with math and computer science department colleagues and students who attended the March event.

"I feel a little like the athlete chosen to carry the flag in the Olympic ceremony," said Merris. "I feel honored and humbled to represent the good things that are going on here."

Merris, who joined the faculty in 1971, has done everything at Cal State East Bay from grilling wieners at the Al Fresco student event, to mentoring new faculty, to teaching the full spectrum of undergraduate and graduate math courses.

"Russ is really an amazing teacher and a mainstay of our department," said Eddie Reiter, mathematics and computer science chair, who nominated him for the MAA award.

An expert in algebraic graph theory and combinatorics, the Hayward resident has also published 112 research papers and written four textbooks. Twice Merris has been named the university's George and Miriam Phillips Outstanding Professor and in 1987 was selected from among 20,000 faculty members as the CSU system's outstanding professor.

Merris has been a Fulbright lecturer in Pakistan and a visiting professor at universities in Lisbon, Portugal; Quebec City, Prague and Edinburgh, Scotland. From 1987 to 1991, he served as an elected trustee of the Hayward Unified School District.

While chair of the university's Academic Senate, Merris developed what was then called the Cal State Hayward Challenge, an entry-level math exam to test the college-readiness of high school students. The test was given to 11th grade student volunteers from surrounding schools, and those with perfect scores were offered $1,000 scholarships if they enrolled at the university. Those whose scores showed they weren't ready for college math work still had a year to improve their skills. A similar assessment program based on the one Merris created is now used by the CSU throughout the state.

Students who wrote to the MAA to nominate Merris for the teaching award praised him for his inspirational teaching and engaging classroom presence.

"He is a master of conveying knowledge, but beyond that he is outstanding in inspiring love for and enthusiasm for his subject matter," wrote Geraldine Hraban, a doctoral student at Stanford University. She credits Merris with her decision to major in math and for inspiring her own classroom teaching style.

Media Contact: Donna Hemmila, Associate Dir. of Public Affairs, (510) 885-4295,

Public Affairs Offices/Campus News
[Bakersfield] [Chancellor's Office] [Channel Islands] [Chico]
[Dominguez Hills] [East Bay] [Fresno] [Fullerton] [Humboldt] [Long Beach] [Los Angeles] [Maritime Academy] [Monterey_Bay] [Northridge] [Pomona] [Sacramento] [San Bernardino] [San Diego] [San Francisco] [San Jose] [San Luis Obispo] [San Marcos] [Sonoma] [Stanislaus]