Law School Mourns the Passing of Professor Emeritus Russell W. Burris
JULY 31, 2014—Russell W. Burris, who taught at the Law School for 12 years and pioneered the use of computers in legal education nationwide, died of natural causes in Minneapolis on July 7. He was 87.
Burris grew up in Wellington, Kan. On the night he graduated from high school, he left to serve in WWII, enlisting in the Navy's hospital corps, which stationed him in the Pacific theater. Following the war he earned an A.B. degree at the University of Colorado, and then, after a stint teaching math in his hometown high school, he moved to Bloomington, Ind., where he received his Ph.D. from the University of Indiana in 1958. He came to the University of Minnesota as a faculty member in the Department of Psychology and Educational Psychology, and from 1966-74 he served as executive director of the University's Center for Research in Human Learning.
In 1982 Burris joined the Law School as a Professor of Law and Instructional Psychology. He immediately became a driving force in the creation of the Center for Computer-Assisted Legal Instruction (CALI), which he founded in collaboration with Professor Donald Trautman of Harvard Law School. CALI's stated purpose, at a time when most students and scholars were still using typewriters and index cards, was to "advance law learning, teaching and research by the use of computers and related materials and devices." Within a year, 18 law schools were working with CALI. Today, CALI is a nonprofit consortium of law schools that conducts applied research and offers interactive online tutorials in a wide array of legal subjects. Nearly every U.S. law school is a member of CALI.
"Long before computers were routinely used in American law schools, Russ Burris was a leader in developing computer-assisted legal instruction," said Professor Robert Stein (’61), who served as dean of the Law School during Burris's time as a professor. "CALI, the program he developed, established the University of Minnesota Law School as a leader in this new pedagogy."
Burris's other career highlights include awards from the American Psychological Association and the American College of Cardiology for his accomplishments in psychology and science; service on the editorial boards of numerous scholarly journals; and membership in such influential groups as the American Educational Research Association and the American Association of Higher Education. He retired from the Law School in 1994 and spent many years traveling with his wife, Jane, often through the Elderhostel program.
A memorial gathering for Professor Burris will be held Tuesday, Aug. 5, from 4-7 p.m. at the Campus Club, located on the fourth floor of Coffman Union on the University's East Bank campus.