Dr. William R. Brown, 91, former chair of the School of Communication at The Ohio State University, passed away Oct. 11, 2020.
Dr. Brown served as chair from 1983 to 1984 and received many awards during his time at Ohio State, including the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. He was well known for his 1970 book, Imagemaker: Will Rogers and the American Dream, in which he dicussed the structure of the American Dream ideology and argued that Rogers’ popularity was due to how his traits embodied it.
Dr. Brown’s research also led him to develop the communication model, "The Rhetoric of Social Intervention," which explains communication as a driver of social system change as we name and rename our needs, relationships, and world views. This model was a focus in Brown’s co-edited book and in a series of essays including Ideology as Communication Process, which received the prestigious National Communication Association’s Golden Anniversary Monograph Award in 1979.
After leaving Ohio State, where Brown remained professor emeritus, he joined the faculty of Dartmouth College.
Dr. Brown was respected and appreciated by his doctoral students and fellow professors. Beth Waggenspack recalled him as a “concerned and curious teacher”. Anne Mattina, a professor of communication at Stonehill College who earned her PhD in communication from Ohio State, said Brown was a “dedicated and inspiring teacher and scholar”. Susan Kline, associate professor of communication at Ohio State, remembered Brown as a theorist committed to showing us “the centrality of communication in all aspect of our lives”.