Russell N. Campbell, September 5, 1927-March 30, 2003

Photo for Russell N. Campbell, September 5,...
Russell Campbell in Beijing, 1980.

Russell Campbell, Professor of Applied Linguistics since 1964, was director of the UCLA International Institue's Language Resource Center and Pacific Rim Center. A world authority on immersive language training.

It is with great sorrow that we report the passing of Russell N. Campbell, founding director of the UCLA International Institute's Language Resource Center, a respected scholar, and a friend to many at UCLA and at the Institute. He died at home on Sunday, March 30, of a recurrence of colon cancer. Present were his wife Marge, children Paula and Roger, and grandchildren, Rainbow and Jeramiah. He was seventy-five.

Russ Campbell, as he was known to all, lived a life of tireless academic service, working in many countries to develop innovative English-language training programs for adult professionals, while at home he was instrumental in internationalizing the curriculum of American education. His career ranged from founding four unique English-language training centers in China that were key to the first academic exchanges with that country after the end of the Mao era, to his work in designing the first two-way language immersion programs beginning at the elementary school level, most notably the famous Culver City Spanish immersion program.

A UCLA Administrator

When he was not overseas or out reshaping his community, Russ Campbell had a distinguished career as an administrator at UCLA. He served as professor in the Department of Applied Linguistics & TESL from 1964 to 1991, after which he continued until his death to hold many administrative positions. An email message from Lyn Repath-Martos, an administrator in the Applied Llinguistics and TESL Department, tells us that "Although he formally retired as professor from the Department of Applied Linguistics and TESL in 1991, to the end, Russ remained intimately and actively involved in Master's Theses, Doctoral Qualifying Papers and Doctoral Dissertation committees for students in the graduate program of Applied Linguistics & TESL. . . . He has been of enormous influence on the field of Applied Linguistics: a tireless thinker, imagineer, and advocate for innovative language education and research projects across the globe, as well as being to so many a true friend and mentor, ever ready to try new things and charge off on new adventures." From 1974 to 1979, he was Vice-Chair of the English Department, in charge of the TESL section. When this became an independent department in 1979, he became its first Chair, a post he held until 1986. In that same year, he became the Director of the Language Resource Program, recently renamed the Language Resource Center, a position he retired from in June 2001. After his retirement, Russ continued as PI on many LRC research projects.

While the Language Resource Program was always first in his heart, Russ gave freely of his time to other centers and programs at the university. From 1986 to 1989, he served first as Associate Director, later as Director, of the UCLA Center for Language Education and Research (CLEAR).

I came to know him best when he took over as acting director of the Center for Pacific Rim Studies in 1990, a predecessor organization to today's Asia Institute. He succeeded the center's founding director Lucie Cheng, and ran the center as Acting Director for three years. I was then a staff research associate for the center and saw Russ almost daily. In those years the center was heavily involved in working with faculty members on research projects funded by the UC President's office Pacific Rim Research Program. As part of our work together I interviewed Russ for the center's newsletter. He told me something about his earlier life.

From Kansas City to Cordoba to Bangkok

Russ Campbell was born in Keokuk, Iowa, and grew up in Kansas City, Missouri. As an undergraduate he studied at Baker University and Emporia State Teachers College in Kansas. "My early direction was with Spanish," he told me in 1990. "Spanish literature and particularly the Spanish language."

In the mid-1950s he worked for the United States Information Agency in Costa Rica and Argentina developing English-language training programs. He later attended graduate school in linguistics at the University of Michigan, but interrupted his studies to do field work in applied linguistics in Thailand as part of the Southeast Asia Regional English Project (SEAREP) headquartered in Bangkok.

"We were to help develop an English-language curriculum, first for teacher-training institutions. They would then go out and teach our curriculum in the middle and secondary schools," he said. Russ spent two and a half years in Thailand, between 1959 and 1961. "While I was there I was also running around to Vietnam and Laos, working with the ministries of Education in those places."

When the job was over, he went back to Michigan and finished his Ph.D., on the subject of Thai grammar. In his Argentine days, in Cordoba, Russell Campbell had met Professor Clifford Prator of UCLA. Prator, in an expansive mood, had told the young man, "Well, when you get your Ph.D., why not come to UCLA?" When Campbell finished his doctorate, five or six years later, he reminded Prator of the promise. He was invited to come for an interview. The English Department liked him. That was in 1964.

Russ Campbell became a specialist in designing programs for the teaching of modern languages. While at UCLA, he worked on interinstitutional projects with Egypt, China, Korea, Japan, Mexico, France, Taiwan, Hungary, and Armenia. He designed language study programs in Spanish in collaboration with the Graduate School of Social Work and the Graduate School of Management and in Korean with the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department.

Two Years in Cairo

In 1971, the UCLA TESL Department entered into an agreement with the American University in Cairo to help it develop an M.A. program in teaching English. The agreement promised that UCLA professors would oversee the program in Cairo for five years. "So Clifford Prator, Donald Bowen, and I divvied up the five years," Russ told me in 1990. "Clifford Prator went out for one year, I did the next two years, and Don Bowen picked up the last two years." He lived in Cairo from 1972 to 1974, and spent time in Lebanon, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.

A Decade of Running Four Language Schools in China

UCLA was one of the first American universities to establish ties with the People's Republic of China after the long exclusion of the outside world during the Mao period. In 1980 Russell Campbell was a member of the first UCLA delegation to China after the normalization of relations. This resulted in agreements with the Ministry of Education, the Academy of Science, and the International Business and Economics Institute to set up three separate English-language training programs. One was at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, and two were in Beijing. Each was to run for five years. A fourth school was created in Beijing in 1985. These were turnkey projects, staffed by UCLA graduate students with many classes taught by UCLA faculty. They were handed over to the Chinese at the end of the five-year period. The schools were funded in part by the Chinese government and in part by the Ford and Luce foundations.

"There were thirteen of us who went over," Russ said. "At the invitation of the Ministry of Education we took a boat up the Pearl River and landed at Guangzhou. The visit was to determine what opportunities we might have for mutually beneficial interinstitutional relations." Discussions were begun with Zhongshan University. The American and Chinese governments had just reached an agreement to perimit a very large number of Chinese scholars to do academic work in the United States. "We talked a lot about the probable English proficiency level of the people they planned to send over, and concluded that for most of them it would be a long way from what they needed to do academic work. So what were the possibilities? One was that the people could be sent to the United States to do intensive English language for months. That would cost in the hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. So we said why not do it in China?"

Over the next two weeks members of the UCLA delegation hammered out a curriculum for a proposed English language center. Zhongshan accepted the plan. Later, in Beijing, the Academy of Science heard of this and asked for a similar center for their people. Another request came from the International School of Business and Economics. In the end three centers were established in 1980, staffed by UCLA graduate students in Applied Linguistics. UCLA's involvement in the centers was to last for five years, and included training a replacement staff of Chinese. The fourth program was begun for social scientists in Beijing in 1985. The schools were jointly administered by the Language Resource Program and the China Exchange Program, which was incorporated into the Center for Pacific Rim Studies in 1985.

In the early summer of 1980, the Chinese administrators for the new language training centers were brought to UCLA to help finalize the curriculum. "We spent the whole summer putting together syllabi," Russ told me. "It was a fascinating and interesting period. First we broke the ice, then we would say, 'Here is what we want to teach.' They would look at it and say, 'My god, you can't teach that!' It's politically sensitive, culturally sensitive. Also, they would say, 'That's not the way we teach language in China.' We would say, 'Great. We don't believe it will work the way you are talking about it.' And so we had to reach all sorts of compromises."

Two-Way Bilingual Education Programs in Los Angeles

Russ Campbell was a pioneer in the preservation of heritage languages among American immigrants and two-way immersion for foreign language teaching to English-speaking children beginning in elementary school. Traditional bilingual education was one way only, using an immigrant community's language to ease the transition to English. The two-way programs are far less common. They aim to teach the foreign language to native English speaking children while the immigrant children have an opportunity to conserve their home language while learning English, and even better, grow into an adult vocabulary in their home language.

Russ Campbell had worked on one of the first of these two-way immersion programs, the Spanish language immersion experiment in Culver City begun in the early 1970s, which became a national model. He was keenly aware of the difficulty of gaining any real fluency in a foreign language from university classes alone and saw the reservoir of heritage language as a valuable national resource. In 1993 he helped to extend this pioneering effort to a two-way Korean immersion program in five Los Angeles Koreatown elementary schools. A majority of instruction, to both Korean children and Anglo children, would be in Korean. He told me at the time, "A five-year-old Korean child has already acquired all of the sound system, has probably 85 percent of the grammatical structures of the language, and can put words and sentences together to communicate complex requests, interests, and experiences. . . . Within our secondary schools and universities, it's very difficlt to bring somebody from zero knowledge of Korean up to the level of that five-year-old. About the only people in our universities who acquire that level have extended sojourns in the foreign country under very special circumstances."

Southeast Asian Language Training at UCLA

Possibly because of his own early training in Thai, Russ Campbell was an early champion of the teaching of South and Southeast Asian languages at UCLA. He was instrumental in persuading the Applied Linguistics Department to sponsor classes in Thai, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Hindi, begining in 1994. This somewhat artificial separation from the East Asian Languages and Cultures Department, which taught Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, continued until 1998, when EALC finally adopted the orphan tongues and created its current South and Southeast Asian Languages Program.

And if he was not busy enough, in 1990, Russ responded to an appeal from the American Univeristy of Armenia, spending a great deal of time in that country developing its English training curriculum, and becoming Dean of that university's English Department,  a position he held until his death.

Over and above all of his accomplishments and service, those of us who knew him will remember Russ Campbell as a warm and decent human being, who always had a kind word for others and was always ready to give of his time and friendship.
Details regarding a memorial service will be forthcoming. The family requests that no flowers be sent.