Press Room

In Remembrance: Past NCA President H. Dan O’Hair (1953 – 2022)

January 4, 2023
Association News
NCA News

It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of H. Dan O’Hair, Ph.D., who served as president of the National Communication Association in 2006. O’Hair, a bestselling author and prominent Communication scholar who specialized in organizational, risk, and health communication at the University of Kentucky, passed away on Dec. 31, 2022. He was 69.

Many in the discipline, including his former students, fellow NCA members, and esteemed colleagues, described O’Hair as a profound influence, a generous spirit, and a powerful communicator. Dawn O. Braithwaite, Ph.D., the Association’s president in 2010, was one of them.

“We were longtime friends and in fact, I replaced him on the faculty at New Mexico State in 1989 when he moved to Oklahoma. He was so smart and a wonderful leader for the discipline, and especially at Oklahoma, and then the University of Kentucky for so many years where he was dean,” said Braithwaite, the Willa Cather Professor of Communication Emerita at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 

At the NCA Annual Convention in San Antonio, Texas in 2006, O'Hair revived the tradition of delivering a presidential address. His hopeful and visionary speech to NCA members centered on the integral role the Communication discipline should play in addressing “emerging problems” and focused on the promising growth and reach of the discipline and NCA. 

Said O’Hair in his president’s address: “We have never been positioned so strongly to deliver on the promise of Communication. Promises of voice, community, and responsibility. I join with Thomas Friedman when he argues for promoting dreams instead of memories. The promise of Communication lies not only in celebrating our past, but in honoring our obligation and commitment to the human condition.”

From 2009-2018, he served as dean of the College of Communication and Information at the University of Kentucky. He was previously the department chair and a professor at the University of Oklahoma where he earned his Ph.D. in 1982. O’Hair was also a member of the faculty at New Mexico State University and Texas Christian University.

According to his obituary, one of O’Hair’s “greatest professional joys was mentoring and supporting faculty, staff, and students.” He was also “known for having an open-door policy for any student looking for help-whether they were working on a course assignment, career planning, or seeking guidance in their lives.” 

O’Hair published over 100 research articles and scholarly chapters and authored and edited over 25 books in the areas of communication, risk management, health communication, and terrorism, including the best seller, A Pocket Guide to Public Speaking (7th Ed). His latest edited book is titled Communicating Science in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 (2021) published by Wiley Blackwell. He is survived by his wife, Mary John; daughter, Erica (Anders) Friis; son, Jonathan O'Hair; grandchildren, Fiona and Hank Friis; sister, Brenda (Mike) O'Brien; and brother, Bill (Gayle) O'Hair. 

A memorial service will be held in Lexington on Saturday, January 14, 2 p.m. at Crestwood Christian Church, 1882 Bellefonte Drive, Lexington, KY. In lieu of flowers, the family respectfully requests that memorial contributions be made to the O'Hair Early Career Faculty Fund in the University of Kentucky College of Communication. For more information, visit: O'Hair Early Career Faculty Award Fund