Retirement Celebration for Dr. Arlene Russell

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Members of the department and family members gathered to celebrate the remarkable career of Dr Arlene Russell at the Botanical Garden’s La Kretz Garden Pavilion on June 29th.

A true Bruin, Russell received her M.S. degree in organic chemistry from UCLA in 1968, and her Ph.D. degree in higher education from UCLA in 1984. She joined the faculty in the Chemistry department in 1968. In 1999 she was appointed tenured Senior Lecturer in both the Department of Chemistry & Biochemistry and in the Department of Education.  

In his remarks, Department Chair Professor Neil Garg thanked Russell for her 54 years of service to the department and led the guests in a toast in her honor. Dr. Johnny Pang, a close colleague, also made remarks and presented Russell with an engraved retirement plaque.

“During more than half a century at UCLA, Arlene has mentored and influenced many of us not only in this department but also in many other educational institutions,” Pang said. “Her many years of commitment and service towards the University and the Department cannot simply be measured and expressed in simple words.”

At the event, Dr. Johnny Pang presented Dr. Arlene Russell with an engraved glass award, which reads: “Upon Your Retirement, To New Beginnings and Happy Memories, Dr. Arlene Russell, May the blessing of good health, a loving family, good friends and the contentment of a job well done fill your life with happiness. With wishes for a Happy Retirement! We will miss you!”

In her remarks, Russell spoke about her time at UCLA as a graduate student and her career at UCLA.  She thanked the department for their recognition of her contributions to the department and the field of chemical education research, which she helped to pioneer. She also thanked the many staff in the department over the years for their friendship and acknowledged that without their support she would not have been able to pursue her research and teaching.

(Left) Dr. Johnny Pang, Dr. Arlene Russell and Department Chair Professor Neil Garg. (Right) After the remarks, guests enjoyed a delicious chocolate cake. 

Russell shared how, as a first-year chemistry graduate student at UCLA, she was privileged to work with Professor Kenneth Trueblood. She said that Trueblood exemplified the dedication to excellent teaching and caring for students as individuals that would serve as a role model for her throughout her career. 

After receiving her master’s degree in physical organic chemistry with Professor Tom Jacobs, Russell decided not to pursue research, but that her calling was in teaching. (There was also a two-body problem – Russell’s husband is Professor Christopher Russell, a member of the UCLA Department of Earth, Planetary, and Space Sciences.)  

She asked Trueblood, who was then Department Chair, if he would write a letter of recommendation for her for community college teaching. He replied asking her if she would rather join the department and manage the lab program. That was her job interview! She noted how different hiring practices were then! Devoted to teaching, she then obtained her Ph.D. in Higher Education at UCLA so she would have the needed tools to pursue chemical education research. As the only chem ed researcher in the department she was free to pursue whatever area she wanted and her colleagues encouraged her as she embraced the use of  new technology—videotapes, videodiscs, interactive programs, group work, and internet writing and peer review—to improve instructional practices and student learning for more than 50,000 students who were in her classes over the years.  

Although she is retiring, Russell is not giving up her passion for teaching – she will continue to teach several classes at UCLA after her retirement. 

Dr. Arlene Russell visits with faculty at the event (left) Professors Emil Reisler and Bill Gelbart and (right) Professors Sarah Tolbert and Yves Rubin.
(Left) Professor Jeffrey Zink, Dr. Maher Henary, and Frank Ow. (Right) Dr. Arlene Russell with her family.
(From left) Denise Mantonya, Dr. Hung Pham, Nick Baerg, Dr. Stacy Nakamoto.
(Left) Russell’s granddaughter and daughter. (Right) Staff members who helped organize and set up the event – Isaiah Gutierrez, Brandon Lindo, and Stephanie Lo.