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CCI 50th Anniversary: Professors Who Made an Impact – Part I

Walking Through Circle Park - Historical

To celebrate the College of Communication and Information’s 50th anniversary, we asked our alumni about their most impactful professors. From genuinely caring to fiercely motivating, these professors shaped students’ careers and lives.

Read Professors Who Made an Impact – Part II

Marvin West

JEM, 1955

“Willis Tucker, head of the journalism department, convinced me that I could earn a living in the field. It was a close call. I could have been a baseball umpire.”

Mustapha Moussa

CS, 2014

“By far, two professors left a great impression on me. Dr. Dwight Teeter was an example of what every educator should aspire to be. Loved his students, was passionate about his topics and loved teaching. Another professor that I respect, is one that I never took a class with. This person was the most humble person I have ever met. I interacted with him between classes and when I briefly worked at the CCI lab. That gentleman is Dr. John Haas. I also couldn’t have done it without my advisor Gary Peterman. Even though he was my advisor for the first year, I still relied on his help throughout my four years at UT.”

Scott Wells

PhD C&I, 2013

“Far and away the most influential professor I had was the late Dr. Ben Bates. He was my advisor, and I can’t say enough about how he shaped my efforts. I remember fondly the many lunches we had in which we talked about scholarship and all things related. He was a true scholar himself but also a good friend. I miss him dearly.”

Jim Norvelle

JEM, 1975

“Kelly Leiter, for teaching me that you could have lots of fun in the daily grind of newspapering.”

Misha Cooper

CS, 2012

“The CCI professor who had the biggest impact on me was definitely John Haas. I had him for my capstone course and also got to know him on the Comm Studies Club annual trip to Washington, D.C. As a professor, he was inspiring, challenging, and motivating at the same time. He pushed our class to think critically about our majors and the value of our degree.

“The biggest impact that he made for me was midway through my last semester leading to graduation, I had two friends unexpectedly pass away within two weeks of each other. I was grieving and had gotten behind on my final project that I needed to graduate. He met with me weekly for a few weeks to help me navigate completing the research project on time, and also just provided an empathetic listening ear at times. Without his support, I’m not sure that I would have finished the project, passed the course, or have graduated on time. I will be forever grateful for that. Since then, I have gotten the opportunity to work under him as a part-time instructor for a few Communication Studies courses the past few years. He has always believed in me and provided assistance when I was uncertain about aspects of teaching. So still today, I view him as someone I can continually learn from and look up to.”

Richard (Dick) Dodson

JEM, 1974

“Professor Irving Simpson. He taught the real world of hands-on broadcasting and television production (things you really needed to know both in the studio and in the field, not just out of a book) in the formative years of the UT curriculum.”

Samantha Lane

PR, 2007

“Michael Palenchar was one of the most important instructors to me, not just within CCI. As a student, I found him to be approachable and encouraging. He showed us such respect in a way that other instructors did not. After graduation, I stayed in touch with him and found him to be a supportive mentor. His ability to be real with students and never act superior to us was so refreshing. Not to mention, he worked very hard to set us up for success in our careers.”

Taylor Hathorn

JEM, 2014

“Dwight Teeter. I really miss him. I had so many great professors, but when I expressed an interest in attending law school, Dr. Teeter would stay after class — night class mind you — and review additional cases with me. When my grandpa was put in the hospital the night before my final exam, Dr. Teeter allowed me to postpone it so that I could go be with him. His empathy and trust in his students was truly one-of-a-kind.”

Lisa Skinner

JEM, 1980

“Dr. James Crook. He contacted me my senior year of high school to invite me to the week-long Journalism Camp & it was the best week of my life up to that point. We put out our own edition of the Beacon; I was awarded the ‘Journalism Jock’ camp award on the last night (and given a corresponding tie-dyed T-shirt stating the same). THAT put me on UT’s radar so that the next year I was one of four freshmen to receive the Bickel Scholarship (I held that scholarship three of my four years at UT). My family and I needed that scholarship to get me through college.”

Lisa Cyr

CS, 2005

“Dr. Roy Ambrester. I had my ‘aha’ moment in one of his classes. I was never sure whether I had picked the right department until taking one of his classes. After that, I signed up for everything he taught. He reminded me of my own grandfather a bit, who was also a college professor.”

Karen Fuson Buchsbaum

JEM, 1975

“Dr. Kelly Leiter was my mentor, sometimes savior, and friend. He was brilliant, witty, a wonderful professor, a sympathetic sounding board, kind, and incredibly thoughtful. I learned much more than great journalism from him; he gave me good advice for decades. I miss him terribly.”

Brooke Fraser Drummond

JEM, 2012

“The CCI professor with the biggest impact on my career was Dr. Swan. He genuinely cares about his students and seeing them succeed. If he had not brought a group of us to New York City, I probably would not have my current job or the experiences I have had [as a producer for NBC’S Today Show Digital Group].”

Read Professors Who Made an Impact – Part II

Have a Favorite Professor?

Are you a CCI graduate? Tell us about a professor that influenced your career or life path. We might use your responses in a future story!