Professor Emerita Sandra Russ recognized with Hovorka Prize for her work giving back

To fully recount the many achievements and accolades Sandra Walker Russ earned in her nearly five decades at Case Western Reserve University would be no easy feat. She’s a Distinguished University Professor and has been interim dean of the College of Arts and Sciences—twice. She was chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences, university associate provost and faculty senate chair, among many other roles.

Russ, the Louis D. Beaumont University Professor Emerita; Department of Psychological Sciences, is now being recognized with a new honor—the 2023 Frank and Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize. Despite Russ’ impressive resume, the award came as a bit of a surprise.

“The Hovorka Prize is such a high honor in the university,” she said. “I am deeply honored and feel a bit overwhelmed.”

A focus on giving back

When Russ talks about her career at Case Western Reserve University, her focus is on others—particularly junior faculty.

“I am most proud of directing the Lilly Fellows Teaching Program that focused on innovations in teaching and led to the development of the University Center for Innovation in Teaching and Education (UCITE),” she said.

Russ is a member of the Executive Committee of Emeriti Faculty Academy and most recently was named a university conciliation counselor, a role in which she works with faculty when interpersonal problems arise.

But her contributions don’t stop there—she recently pledged an estate gift of a $1.5 million endowment to advance research in child psychology. It establishes the Sandra Walker Russ, PhD, Assistant Professorship in Child Psychology at the College of Arts and Sciences.

“I truly believe that the individual has a responsibility to give back to society and to use their abilities as long as they can,” Russ said. “In my scholarly work, I love digging into areas and seeing new connections. I look forward to doing more of that.”

“The Affect in Play Scale” and philanthropy

Russ’ work related to creativity and its manifestation in children’s play has been internationally recognized and lauded.

She developed “The Affect in Play Scale,” a reliable index of children’s affective and cognitive functioning. The work is widely recognized and utilized as a major indicator of children’s creativity both in the U.S. and Europe.

“My research has provided empirical support for the importance of pretend play in the development of creativity in children,” Russ said. “And, it was important to determine how to facilitate imagination and emotional expression.”

While Russ is honored by this latest recognition, she does take the time to reflect on those who helped her along the way.

“I have had great mentors at the university over the years,” she said. “And my late husband, Dr. Tom Brugger, provided the love and support, through all the ups and downs, for which I am eternally grateful.”

About the award

Established in 1994 by the late Dorothy Humel Hovorka, a leader in the arts and community affairs and an honorary member of the University’s Board of Trustees, the Frank and Dorothy Humel Hovorka Prize honors the late Frank Hovorka, who was a distinguished member of the faculty in the Department of Chemistry for many years.

The prize is awarded annually to an active or emeritus faculty member whose exceptional achievements in teaching, research and scholarly service have benefited the community, the nation and the world. The recipient is selected on the recommendation of a committee consisting of previous awardees.