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Richard Doty

Ruth Russell

Last modified: Tuesday, September 10, 2002

Passionate leisure pursuits subject of IU research project

What happens when people become passionate about a leisure pursuit? This subject is being investigated by Ruth Russell, a professor in the Indiana University School of Health, Physical Education and Recreation. Russell is currently interim executive associate dean of the school.

"We usually think of leisure as a respite from work, but my research focus is just the opposite. I am interviewing people who make their leisure pursuit a life priority. For them it is not a rejuvenation from work. It is a central force in who they feel they are. It is much more than a pastime," explained Russell, whose main research interest is life satisfaction issues.

Russell has 30 years of teaching and administrative experience in the leisure studies field. She is talking to men and women of various ages in the Bloomington area with such leisure pursuits as marathon running, art history, walking, golf, gourmet cooking, gardening, sky diving and woodworking. She has conducted about 50 interviews so far toward her goal of 100.

She plans to publish a book in which these individuals talk freely about their motivations for pursuit of such serious leisure activity. Her book will be the opposite of Working, the popular 1974 book by Studs Terkel that describes how people feel about their jobs. "So much of how society values people is through their work, but I want to learn about the opposite activity -- leisure," she said.

"I want to know why these people make leisure their top priority in life and how this affects them. Is the passion so strong that it 's not called fun? This is what I hope to document from both a scholarly and a research perspective. The research findings will also give these people a chance to tell their stories in a popular manner," she explained.

For more information, contact Russell at 812-855-1561 or