Former Department Chair Dr. William Brown (1929-2020)

November 9, 2020
Dr. William Brown

Dr. William R. Brown, 91, former chair of the Department of Communication at The Ohio State University, passed away Oct. 11. 

Dr. Brown served as chair 1983-1984 and received many awards during his time at Ohio State, including Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching. He was well known for his 1970 book, “Imagemaker: Will Rogers and the American Dream.” In it, Brown discussed the structure of the “American Dream” ideology and argued that Rogers’ popularity was due to his embodiment of characteristics associated with the American Dream ideology. 

Dr. Brown’s research also led him to develop the communication model, The Rhetoric of Social Intervention. This model explicated 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” that received the prestigious National Communication Association’s Golden Anniversary Monograph Award in 1979.   

After leaving Ohio State, Dr. Brown joined the faculty of Dartmouth College. Brown remained professor emeritus at The Ohio State University.  

Dr. Brown was respected and appreciated by his doctoral students and fellow professors, who recall him as a “concerned and curious teacher” (Beth Waggenspack), a “dedicated and inspiring teacher and scholar” (Anne Mattina), and a theorist committed to showing us “the centrality of communication in all aspect of our lives” (Susan Kline).