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
"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
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
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
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.
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