Affiliation: University of California, Berkeley
Teaching: After earning his PhD at Columbia University, Russell taught at the University of British Columbia, then at Berkeley, where he remained for 23 years, until his death. He worked with both undergrads and graduate students. Russell’s teaching load at Berkeley was substantial, as was evident in his comment to colleague, Doris Gates: “I have 220 in my course in reading, about 100 of whom have not taught before.” (Russell to D. Gates, June 29, 1949).
Scholarship: A prolific researcher, Russell published widely “in the field of education and psychology include[ing] teaching guides, essays on educational problems, college textbooks, yearbook contributions, research articles and monographs, reviews for encyclopedias, and diverse leaflets and pamphlets on curriculum development and instruction” (Buswell, Michaelis, & Parker, 1966, p. 99). Russell’s love of research resulted in his contribution of scientifically based and developmentally appropriate reading instruction in the form of the Ginn Basic Readers. With more than 60,000,000 copies sold before his death, these readers significantly affected teachers and children.
Service: Russell served as the president of the California School Supervisors’ Association from 1947 to 1948; president of the National Conference on Research in English from 1952 to 1953; vice president and president of the National Council of Teachers of English. From 1955 to 1956 and 1963 to 1964, respectively; and vice president of the American Educational Research Association from 1957 to 1958 and then president of that organization from 1958 to 1959. Russell gave countless presentations to professional associations (e.g., the International Reading Association), community groups such as Parent Teacher Associations, and school districts across the United States. Evidently, these organizations felt his contributions were significant enough to name numerous awards after him (e.g., David H. Russell Award for Excellence in Reading Instruction; David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research in English.
Personal and Professional History: Because he grew up in a family where father, mother, sister, and three aunts had been teachers, Russell also aspired to teach. He attended Normal School in Regina, Canada and became the principal of a rural, one-room school in Saskatchewan, at the tender age of 17. Upon receiving his bachelors and masters degrees, he accepted another principalship at a larger high school, also in Saskatchewan. Still needing a challenge, Russell attended Columbia where he was appointed Associate in Educational Psychology and a research assistant to Arthur Gates.
For additional biographical information see:
Barry, A.L. (2007). David Harris Russell (1906-1965): A man who loved learning and teaching. In S. Israel & E.J. Monaghan (Eds.), Shaping the field, the impact of early reading pioneers, scientific research, and progressive ideas. Newark, DE: International Reading Association.