Past Presidents Obituaries



Lloyd Frank Bitzer

NCA President: 1976


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Lloyd Frank Bitzer died October 13, 2016, at the family home at age 85. From 1961 to 1994, he was a professor at the University of Wisconsin, specializing in the history and theory of rhetoric.

Dr. Bitzer was born January 2, 1931, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. He was an undergraduate at Southern Illinois University from 1950 to 1952, then served two years in the U.S. Navy, after which he completed his B.S. and M.A. degrees. He earned his Ph.D. in rhetorical studies from the University of Iowa, and joined the University of Wisconsin-Madison as an assistant professor in 1961.

In 1976, Dr. Bitzer served as President of the National Communication Association. He also won the NCA Distinguished Scholar Award in 1997, the James A. Winans-Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award in 1968, and the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award in 1979. As a professor in the humanities, in which scientific method, evidence and precision are never decisive, he wrote essays and books that came as close to truth as he could manage. As a teacher, he supplied students with original writings by the best authors.

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Jo Ann (Eblen) Bitzer; daughter Jo Claire and her husband Herman Tucker; son Evan; two grandchildren, Danny (Kimberly) and Jolene Bitzer, and their mother Kim; great-grandson Lincoln Eric Bitzer (son of Danny and Kimberly); and brother James Mark Bitzer. Two sons predeceased him: Eric T. Bitzer (father of Danny and Jolene), and Jeffrey C. Bitzer. Of his siblings, those deceased are Clarence William Bitzer and Helen (Bitzer) Sheets.

Jane Blankenship


Jane Blankenship

NCA President: 1978


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Dr. Jane Blankenship, the 64th President of the National Communication Association (1978), passed away on April 24, 2015. Born in 1934 and a native of Huntington, West Virginia, Professor Blankenship was a graduate of the University of Akron and received her Ph.D. in 1961 from the University of Illinois. Her mentor was Marie Hochmuth Nichols, NCA’s 55th President. She was also mentored by NCA’s 72nd President, Wayne Brockriede, when she served as an assistant for his debate program. Dr. Blankenship served on the faculty of Mount Holyoke College’s Rhetoric and Composition program before moving to the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During her tenure there as Director of Graduate Studies, the university established a Communication Ph.D. program. Dr. Blankenship retired as a professor in 1997. Active in several of the discipline’s associations, she also served as President of the Eastern Communication Association.

Dr. Blankenship received numerous prestigious awards throughout her career, including many from NCA – the Golden Anniversary Monograph Award (1975); the Robert J. Kibler Memorial Award (1988); the Douglas Ehninger Distinguished Rhetorical Scholar Award (1992); the NCA Feminist and Women’s Studies Division Spotlight Scholar (1994); the Wallace Bacon Lifetime Teaching Excellence Award (1997); and the NCA Women’s Caucus Francine Merritt Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Lives of Women in the Field of Communication (2002).

As part of an NCA initiative to capture the stories of women who have been prominent in NCA and beyond, Dr. Blankenship joined other women leaders in sharing her personal and professional experiences in an essay that is posted to the NCA website.



Bruce Gronbeck

NCA President: 1994


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Bruce Gronbeck (1941 – 2014) was President of NCA in 1994. He also won NCA’s Distinguished Scholar Award, Samuel L. Becker Distinguished Service Award, and Golden Monograph Award for his many contributions to the field of Communication.

He died September 10 in Iowa City doing what he loved so much: being with his friends and colleagues at the University of Iowa. He delivered his last lecture Tuesday, and then hours before his death on Wednesday, was bathed in love and gratitude from his colleagues and students at a celebratory dinner.



Loren Reid

NCA President: 1957


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Dr. Loren D. Reid, the 43rd president of the National Communication Association (1957), passed away on December 25, 2014, at the age of 109. Born in 1905 and a native of Gilman City, Missouri, Professor Reid was a graduate of Grinnell College and received his Ph.D. in 1932 from the University of Iowa, (one of the first doctoral degrees in Speech awarded in the United States). His doctoral advisor was A. Craig Baird, NCA’s 24th president. Dr. Reid joined the Department of Speech and Dramatic Art (now the Department of Communication) at the University of Missouri in 1944, just four years after the department was founded. He remained a member of the Missouri faculty until his retirement in 1975, which ended a remarkable 31-year career as a teacher-scholar.

A significant and successful rhetorical scholar, Professor Reid authored the influential essay “The Perils of Rhetorical Criticism” in the Quarterly Journal of Speech, 1944, edited the important 1961 collection American Public Address: Studies in Honor of Albert Craig Baird, and authored Charles James Fox: A Man of the People in 1969, a book published by the University of Missouri Press that received NCA’s Golden Anniversary Book Award and the association’s Winans-Wichelns Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address. Rare among Communication scholars, Reid’s research earned him an appointment as a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

As a teacher and mentor for generations of students at Missouri and those from colleges and universities across the nation, Reid personified the ideal “speech teacher.” Former NCA President Steven Beebe noted of his former teacher and mentor, “He was an inspiration to me and countless others during his legendary career as an educator, scholar, and academic leader…Thank you, Professor Reid, for illuminating my life and the light of so many others.”

Loren Reid’s long-time service to NCA and to the Communication discipline has no parallel. His leadership included service as both President and Executive Secretary of the National Communication Association (NCA) and Executive Secretary of the Central States Communication Association (CSCA). In 1981, Professor Reid received the NCA Distinguished Service Award, in 2002 he received an NCA Mentor Award, and in 2005 he was inducted into the CSCA Hall of Fame. Reid was also a founder of both the Speech and Theatre Association of Missouri and the New York State Speech Communication Association. A true champion of the discipline, Reid optimistically dedicated his time and considerable energy to the betterment of his students, the universities he called home, and the discipline he worked so hard to establish and maintain. He truly personified NCA founder and first President James O’Neill’s charge in 1915: “Those who take part in all the work that is before us can with better grace and better appetite enjoy whatever benefits this work produces.”