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University remembers longtime benefactor, alumnus, friend

Nov. 4, 2004

Dr. Fritz J. Russ, alumnus, longtime benefactor and treasured friend of Ohio University and the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology, passed away Wednesday, Nov. 3. He was 84. His innovation, vision and technical expertise spanned an engineering career of more than 55 years and many engineering firsts.

Fritz J. Russ, photo by Rick Fatica"Fritz Russ was not only a great friend and benefactor of Ohio University - it is surely true that his influence on engineering education in Ohio, and indeed, the nation, ranks with that of the founders of our country's original engineering programs," said Dennis Irwin, Russ College dean.

Russ, along with his beloved wife of 62 years, Dolores, was a lifelong champion of engineering education. The Russes' passion led them to help build state-of-the-art engineering programs and facilities in the state of Ohio, at not only Ohio University, but Wright State University and Cedarville University.

"A dear friend and stalwart supporter of Ohio University, Dr. Russ helped the Russ College advance on the national and world stage and was always thinking of ways to innovate new programs for our students," said Leonard Raley, vice president for University Advancement. "Fritz and Dolores have demonstrated unwavering support of and love for our students, faculty and 'the green and white.'"

Born on Sept. 23, 1920, in Jackson County, Ohio, Russ graduated from Ohio University in 1942 with a bachelor of science in electrical engineering. At the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., he helped build the world's first high-voltage, RF-generated power supply, later used in every television set before the modern era of plasma displays. During WWII, he 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. He oversaw development of the first electronic control system for large diesel generators, resulting in two patents. At Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he invented a firing error indicator to measure the precise distance by which an aircraft gun misses its target and then adjusts the gun in time for the next shot.

In the early 1950s, he and his wife founded Knollwood Electronics in the basement of their home. In 1955, they started Dayton's Systems Research Laboratories (SRL), which grew into one of the world's largest and most productive, independent engineering and technology research firms. The company created a blood pressure monitoring instrument that became the basis for the central monitoring of multiple blood pressures in hospitals, and later achieved milestones in lasers, chemical warfare shelters and artificial intelligence. Russ later managed his own consulting firm, Russ Venture Group.

The Russes' involvement with Ohio University dates back to the '70s. In 1973, Fritz joined the College of Engineering and Technology Board of Visitors. The following year, he was appointed to the Ohio University Foundation Board of Trustees. In 1975, in recognition of his research and contributions, Ohio University awarded him an honorary doctorate.

In 1981, Russ was appointed by Ohio Gov. James Rhodes to the Ohio University Board of Trustees. In 1994, the university's College of Engineering was re-named The Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology in honor of the Russes' dedication and commitment to engineering education at Ohio University. Later, the Russes endowed the Russ Prize, one of the top three engineering prizes in the world, in 1999. In 2004, they received the Founders Citation - the highest honor the Board of Trustees presents - for exemplary service to Ohio University.

Russ is survived by his wife of 62 years, Dolores (Houser) Russ, sister Midge Crum (Bethesda, Md.), sisters- and brother-in-law Emma Houser (Wellston, Ohio) and Richard and Betsy Pomeroy (Chagrin Falls, Ohio); and many loving cousins, nieces, nephews and treasured friends.

Family will receive friends on Friday, Nov. 5, from 5-8 p.m. at Tobias Funeral Home, 5471 Far Hills Ave. in Dayton, Ohio, (937) 252-3122. Online tributes may be left at www.tobiasfuneralhome.com.  Interment will be held Sat., Nov. 6, 2:30 p.m. at Fairmount Cemetery in Jackson, Ohio, with Ohio University President Emeritus Charles J. Ping officiating. Plans for an Ohio University memorial service remain incomplete at this time, but the university will fly flags at half-staff Friday in remembrance of Fritz Russ. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to In His Name Ministry, c/o Roger Pacholka, M.D. FACEP; 700 Liberty Ln.; Dayton, OH 45449.

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