Professor George Stevens died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease on April 5, 2012, after accomplishing much, contributing much, loving much and graciously sharing himself and his family with colleagues and friends in so many ways.
He will be fondly remembered as a fine man, a loving and devoted husband and father, as a great personality and as a powerful presence during his time at Purdue.
Stevens was hired in 1969 to teach journalism in the Department of English at Purdue. Soon thereafter, as Stevens was fond of saying, he was “traded” to the Department of Communication for a desk and three chairs when journalism as an area of study was shifted from English to communication. He often quipped that “English got the better of the deal” when he introduced himself at communication department functions. But, of course, Stevens was wrong.
Stevens emerged as one of the most prolific scholars of journalism in the country and enhanced Purdue’s reputation in communication by receiving Certificates of Merit from the American Business Law Association for the best articles published in volumes 12 and 16 of the American Business Law Journal; by being ranked fourth in mass communication research article productivity, 1980-85, in Journalism Quarterly, summer 1988; by being ranked in the top three percent of active researchers in communication, in the Index in Communication Studies Through 1990 conducted at the University of Miami in 1993; and by being ranked 69th among active researchers in communication (that is, in the top one percent of the discipline), 1915-95, in Communication Monographs, June 1999. He wrote over 70 articles published in a wide array of quality academic journals.
He coauthored one book with his colleague John Webster titled “Law and the Student Press,” and another single-authored book titled “The Student Journalist and Public Opinion Polling.” Both books were called by various reviewers “essential for journalism advisers, publication boards, and school administrators at all levels,” “indispensable” and “vital.”
Stevens’ major teaching and scholarly interest areas were communication law and magazine journalism. He regularly taught both lower and upper division courses in Journalistic Writing, Mass Communication Law, Magazine Journalism, Freedom of Speech and Press, History of Mass Media, and Legal Dimensions of Communication.
He served as chairperson of the department’s Committee on Instruction in Journalism and supervised the revision of the journalism concentration. Later he coordinated successful proposals for a specialty journalism concentration and the public relations area program, which, then, led to the creation of a mass communication curriculum and revision of course offerings in journalism.
Professor Stevens was born on July 12, 1936, in Vancouver, Wash., part of the Portland, Ore., metropolitan area, received his bachelor’s degree from Pacific University in 1958, and spent two years with a weekly newspaper in Ellensburg, Wash., covering local news. He earned both his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Minnesota in 1962 and 1968 and was a professor at the University of Cincinnati before coming to Purdue. He served as Assistant Department Head and as Schedules and Space Deputy for Communication from 1988 until his retirement in 2001.
His colleagues have fond memories of Stevens as an avid tennis player, who later in life even tried to play while wearing an oxygen tank as his health declined, as a baseball fan, especially of little league baseball, and as an avid reader. Stevens could and did talk about books and contemporary authors with great vigor, insight and passion.
He married Laura J. Stoner in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Dec. 20, 1969. She is now a research associate in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue. John H. “Jack” and Jeffrey G. are their two sons.
Written by Professor Ralph Webb