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The School of Communication Mourns Emeritus Professor and Former Associate Dean

D. Charles “Chuck” Whitney, emeritus professor of Communication Studies in the Northwestern University School of Communication and the school’s former associate dean for faculty and graduate affairs, died February 9 at age 72 in Evanston, Ill.

Chuck enjoyed a long and prestigious career in academia, researching and publishing works about the sociology and social history of mass communicators as well as taking on leadership roles and tackling a key Northwestern international initiative.

“Chuck Whitney established himself as a leading figure in media studies and then went on to a distinguished career as an academic administrator who was especially effective at building programs through faculty development—first at the University of California at Riverside, where he led the program in creative writing, and then at Northwestern University, where he served as an associate dean in both the School of Communication and at Northwestern University in Qatar,” says School of Communication Dean Barbara O’Keefe. “Our faculty will always remember his kindness, warmth, and attention to their growth.”

David Charles Whitney was born August 19, 1946 in Asheville, N.C., one of three sons of John Barry Whitney, Jr., a longtime botany professor at Clemson University, and Ruth Krehl Whitney, a junior high school vice principal. Chuck grew up in Clemson, S.C., among the fellow families and children of university faculty. He attended Clemson and earned a bachelor’s degree in English and soon after began reporting for a newspaper in nearby Greenville. His interest in journalism prompted him to earn a doctorate in mass communication from the University of Minnesota, where he met his wife, Ellen Wartella.

After marrying in 1976, Chuck and Ellen began academic careers that they would pursue in near lockstep for more than four decades. Their first stop was Ohio State University, with Ellen in the department of communication and Chuck in journalism. They moved to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s Institute of Communication Research and stayed for for more than a decade, each earning full professorships. They spent another 11 years at University of Texas at Austin, where Chuck taught in the journalism school and Ellen served as dean of its college of communication. From there they moved to University of California at Riverside, where he chaired the department of creative writing; she was the university’s provost.

Chuck began at Northwestern in 2010 as the associate dean for faculty and graduate affairs, with an appointment in the Department of Communication Studies. In 2015, Chuck moved to Doha, Qatar to serve as associate dean of academic affairs for NU-Q, Northwestern’s campus in the Middle East. He retired and returned to the United States in 2017 but remained extremely close to the Northwestern University community, especially his colleagues at the School of Communication.

He is survived by his wife, Ellen, the Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani Professor of Communication in the School of Communication at Northwestern, his son David, and his brother John Barry Whitney III. Chuck is predeceased by his parents, his brother Robert Krehl Whitney, and his son Stephen Wright Whitney (GC16).

A reception will be held in honor of his life and scholarship on Sunday, February 17 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., at Northwestern University’s Harris Hall, 1881 Sheridan Road, Evanston, Ill.

In lieu of flowers, the Whitney family asks that donations be made to support the Stephen Wright Whitney Scholarship at the School of Communication.