Beloved journalism professor honored

Anne Broache

Legendary Medill professor Richard “Dick” Schwarzlose filled his office with old typewriters, quadruplicate copies of Tom Wolfe, and, as colleague Abe Peck discovered, 10 vibrant personas. Among others, there were Dick the historian, Dick the Socratic professor, Dick the open-door advisor and Dick the passionate.

“History — for some, that’s a dry word,” said Peck, a Medill professor and head of the magazine department, who worked for 22 years with Schwarzlose. “But that person never took Dick’s class.”

Peck and others reminisced about Schwarzlose on Sunday afternoon in a belated memorial service. A few hundred friends, family members, former students and colleagues clustered in the pews at Alice Millar Chapel and gathered afterward in Parkes Hall for refreshments.

Best known for his expertise in journalistic history and ethics, Schwarzlose, the longest-tenured Medill faculty member, died at age 66 on June 14. He suffered a massive heart attack while biking along Green Bay Trail, where he rode frequently, sometimes with students or his children.

“He was proud of his speed and his endurance, which were amazing for a 66-year-old man,” Becca Schwarzlose remarked of her father during the service.

Schwarzlose’s only daughter delivered a series of recollections that left the audience alternately merry and misty-eyed.

“I hope that if you find yourself thinking of my dad and missing him that you can picture him smiling and laughing,” she said.

Her father contemplated serious issues like fairness but also revealed his mischievous side, she said. He dubbed his gray Ford Taurus “Silver Bullet,” wore an “Elmer Fudd hat” in the winter and liked to fabricate stories.

“He would tell us about his ‘other family,'” said Becca Schwarzlose, drawing chuckles.

His made-up wife, Sprinkle, moved dirt for a living, Becca Schwarzlose said. His son, Mortimer, boasted a third eye in the back of his head, and his daughter was named Poopsie — the origin of a nickname that Schwarzlose assumed for himself in front of his students.

Early on the mood of the service was solemn. As Prof. Stephen Alltop played a slow Bach prelude on the organ, a line of murmuring guests snaked around the entryway, waiting to inscribe their messages into a clothbound book. Then, from an unseen perch in the organ’s loft, Richard Schwarzlose’s son, Dan, performed a trumpet arrangement with cello and organ.

“Dan wanted you to know that he selected the Bach air we just heard because he and his father shared a fondness for Bach,” announced Timothy Stevens, the university chaplain.

Stevens opened the program with an invocation welcoming those who attended the memorial service.

“Surely (Schwarzlose’s) character, spirit of caring and influence on so many colleagues and students will have a lasting effect,” Stevens said.

When the time came for sharing remembrances, a medley of students, faculty and friends stepped up to the podium. Outdoor light glowed through the chapel’s stained glass windows, providing a gem-tone backdrop for the speakers.

Medill Dean Loren Ghiglione offered condolences to the Schwarzlose family before reading selected testimonials from former students that have been collected at the Medill Web site.

Former student Garrett Baldwin, a Medill senior, first met Schwarzlose when he was a high school student in the NU’s summer Cherub program for aspiring journalists and then enrolled in his history and issues of journalism course. He came to consider the professor a friend and had often sought his advice. Once Schwarzlose had suggested, “You need to laugh.”

After that advising session Baldwin had returned home only to realize that his cell phone was missing. Hoping to hear its ring, Baldwin tried calling the phone. He was startled when he heard a voice at the other end: “Mr Baldwin’s phone; this is his secretary, Poopsie.”

“He had hid the phone,” Baldwin said, “just to give me laughs later.”