Medill assistant dean to leave post at year’s end, retire in ’05

Sheila Burt

A memorial service for Richard “Dick” Schwarzlose, the Medill School of Journalism’s longest-tenured faculty member, will be held Sunday, more than three months after he died at age 66 of an apparent heart attack while biking on Green Bay Trail in Evanston.

The service for Schwarzlose is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Alice Millar Chapel and is open to the community. The ceremony was postponed because many students were away from campus when news spread of Schwarzlose’s June 14 death, Medill Dean Loren Ghiglione said.

“We were worried that a lot of students — all except for the graduates — had left campus,” Ghiglione said. “It was traumatic, and not something we were ready for during commencement week.”

Schwarzlose, called a “rock of integrity” by some colleagues, joined Northwestern’s faculty in 1968 and was awarded the Charles Deering McCormick Professorship of Teaching Excellence in 2002. A specialist in the field of media ethics, Schwarzlose most recently taught history and issues of journalism, a required class for all Medill freshmen.

Journalism Prof. Abe Peck, who worked with Schwarzlose for about 21 years, said Schwarzlose’s teaching method inspired students to question journalism and to remain aware of ethical considerations.

“He could make (students) realize it was about more than dotting the ‘i’s and crossing the ‘t’s,” Peck said. “He personified ethics.”

Peck said teaching was such an important part of Schwarzlose’s life that his family returned to Medill on the Monday after his death with term papers in hand so students’ grades could be completed on time. Journalism Profs. Jon Ziomek and Richard Roth will assume Schwarzlose’s classes this academic year, but there is no long-term plan in place yet.

Schwarzlose’s wife of 40 years, Sally, said his life was enriched by his students and colleagues, and that the family took solace in the overwhelming community response.

“I can’t expand anything beyond the Medill Web site with student and faculty expressions — logging on and sharing, all the ongoing conversations have been wonderful for us,” she said.

Roger Boye, an assistant dean at Medill, praised the way Schwarzlose impacted more than 6,000 Medill students during his tenure.

“He was particularly good at fostering students, getting them to talk and learn as much from each other as from him,” said Boye, who took a class from Schwarzlose in 1970.

And to some students, Schwarzlose was more of a friend than a professor.

“There are a lot of teachers that are in Medill who are just associates, have very minimal conversation,” said Garrett Baldwin, a Medill senior. “Dick’s worth to us was as a friend. He was always there for his students and would always offer a minute or two just to hear you rant.”

Baldwin had plans to go biking with Schwarzlose along Green Bay Trail during Fall Quarter and said he will still make the trip as a tribute to his role model.

“Even though we had never gone before,” Baldwin said, “and even through he’s not going to be there, he’ll be with me.”

Mark Brandau, a Medill junior, said Schwarzlose connected with students on a personal level.

“Let’s face it — he was an institution,” Brandau said. “My favorite moment in class was the day that he started singing to us about different kinds of presses, which led into this really old Irving Berlin song called ‘Your Easter Bonnet’ and I had sung that song before in high school, so I started singing along with him. The look on his face was priceless.

“After class, he pulled me aside and said he’d been teaching that class for over 30 years and … I was the first person that ever sang along with him. To stand out in his mind as something unique, even for something as insignificant as just singing along with him, that’s enough for me to really consider myself lucky.”

The professor’s popularity also reached beyond NU. Ghiglione said he realized the scope of Schwarzlose’s influence this summer at a journalism educator’s convention in Kansas City.

“I was quite moved by the number of professors from other universities that talked about Dick’s impact on their careers,” Ghiglione said.

Schwarzlose was born in Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism and his doctoral in communication. Before becoming a professor, he reported at The News-Gazette in Champaign.

The professor and historian also penned the two-volume set, “The Nation’s Newsbrokers and Newspapers: A Reference Guide.”

Schwarzlose is survived by his wife, Sally; son Daniel, Weinberg ’95; and daughter Rebecca, Weinberg ’02.

The family requests any donations be made to Medill, which has started a memorial fund.