RUSSELL WINS REED'S VOLLUM AWARD
James T. Russell '53 won the Vollum Award for Distinguished Accomplishment in Science and Technology at Reed's convocation in August. The Vollum Award was created in 1975 as a tribute to the late C. Howard Vollum '36, co-founder of Tektronix. Winners are selected for the perseverance, fresh approach to problems and solutions, and creative imagination that characterized Vollum's career.
Russell's witty and pointed acceptance speech was well received by the many who attended convocation. In it he described the birth of the compact disc and the inventive process, and how it all might apply to students.
"The invention process involves the manipulation of a plethora of facts and idea fragments, from which an inductive leap can take place," he said. "The facts of course come from your knowledge of the field and often from many related fields. My point is that this information must be in your mind. It does no good to simply be able to answer test questions, or only know which book or which web site to look in. Referring to such resources is critical when studying a problem, or learning a field. But to innovate, you gotta know the territory.
"The manipulation and inductive process takes intense focus. It's heavy stuff. Obviously, it if were easy, someone else would have done it. There cannot be any distractions, either external or internal, for extended periods. So, if you want to solve a difficult problem, metaphorically send your family to the store, go off in a corner, shut off the computer, shut off the TV, even, it pains me to say, shut off the CD-and cogitate."