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Our History... Continuing On

In the post-World War II era, the Department of Journalism and Department of Speech emerged as key units in responding to the challenges of modern industrial and urban life in America. By the 1950s, the Department of Journalism had begun an annual Awards Banquet. Its founding award for achievement went to a young Floyd Kalber, who had literally helped invent local television news by using film cameras to cover a major flood in the city. Kalber went on to become the most watched new anchor in Chicago, an anchor on the NBC Today Show and questioner on Meet the Press. By this point, UNO alumni had begun to make their mark on the emerging communication field. For example, Rose Ann Shannon was one of the first women to break down gender barriers in news management, Patti Matson became a top ABC television executive, Rudy Smith helped shape Omaha photojournalism, Mort Crim rose to a top position in Detroit, and Leo Meidlinger produced news programs for ABC in Washington, D.C. Alumni used their communication skills to establish distinguished careers in law, education, corporate communication and many other fields.

1950 Mossholder leaves for similar role at Indiana University, Robert McGranahan MA Iowa takes over Public Relation role, acting Journalism head, with W. Wilson Cliff, BA Minnesota on Journalism faculty.

Robert McGranahan

1951 Campus station KWOU starts with student involvement. Chronology of Speech, Journalism, Broadcasting, Public Relations continued


Speech Department

1952 Shubert leaves, Bruce Linton, MA Northwestern, acting speech head, with Tyson, Mrs. Key, lecturer Ken Burkholder for speech/radio. A.L. Bliven teaches photography. KMTV airs TV Classroom.

KBON Student Day

1953 Cliff Ellis, MA Indiana, acting head of J; Linton still acting speech joined by Phil Allen, liberal radio commentator, part-time speech. Lecturers: Lloyd Berg, BA Iowa, weekly newspaper and advertising man; Paul Borge, KMTV producer, in speech, and Warren Buffett for “investments.” Ray Clark, WOWTV anchor, lectures.

1953 FIRST LISTINGS OF TELEVISION AND PUBLIC RELATIONS: Linton taught intro to radio and TV; also radio-TV program planning McGranahan taught public relations. Ed Clark new in drama.

1955 Ellis and Linton heads, not acting; Linton complete Northwestern Ph.D Journalism, lists B.S. IN RADIO-TELEVISION JOURNALISM, Ellis, Linton advise combined work in speech, journalism. Borge full-time in fall.

Paul V. Peterson and Thomas (Tuck) Moore

1956 J adds Paul V. Peterson, MA Minnesota (later Ph.D). First journalism awards event, Thomas (Tuck) Moore receives initial alumni award. Earlier end-of-school-year parties held in McGranahan back yard beside Happy Hollow golf course.

1957 Peterson acting head of Journalism, Ellis gone. Aldrich Paul, acting head of speech, Linton gone, with Frank Magers, Borge, Clark, Tyson. McGranahan advises Industrial Editing (house organs) sequence.

1965 KYNE-TV, headed by Paul Borge, begins broadcasting in Fall. Journalism Department in Arts & Sciences as Applied Arts ends.

Paul Borge

1966 Warren Francke joins the UNO faculty. For more information on Professor Emeritus Dr. Warren Francke, visit: From the Archives: Warren Francke, A Passion for Journalism, Teaching and Life, by Leo Adam Biga

1968 Omaha University merges with state system, becomes UNO.

New Symbols

1973 Dramatic Arts leaves Speech for School of Fine Arts.

By the mid-1970s, it was clear that growth in journalism and speech required a new structure. Prolific writer and professor Bob Reilly, sketched this historic 1975 first meeting of the Department.

Hugh Cowdin emerged as a visionary leader able to articulate the department’s strategic mission of academic excellence by providing professional education within a liberal arts context. The result was a rapid growth in students, the hiring of new faculty, the emergence of an exciting graduate program, and a goal of someday becoming a School of Communication.

1975 Speech and Journalism merge into Communication Department headed by Dr. Hugh P. Cowdin, Ph.D Iowa, who had chaired journalism. Cowdin raises idea of School of Communication.

Hugh Cowdin

Under Cowdin, and later Robert Carlson’s leadership, the faculty began to develop a creative interdisciplinary character, which placed the department in a unique position to help lead the campus in its movement from commuter campus toward a metropolitan university. Communication faculty assumed leadership roles on the Faculty Senate, the Graduate Council, the Academic Planning Council, the University Committee on Research, the University Committee on the Advancement of Teaching, and many other important areas.

Debra Smith-Howell

Deborah Smith-Howell, Ph.D. Texas, who became chair of the department in the mid-1990s, played a central role in establishing strategic planning on the UNO campus. In the department, enrollment continued to skyrocket.

2004 School of Communication approved under leadership of Dr. Deborah Smith-Howell

In 2004-2005, the School of Communication was a campus leader in pioneering American Democracy Project work. Our projects included development of two student news blogs, presentation of two Debate Watch meetings, creation of non-native public speaking courses, and production of election newscasts, including a one-hour live election night special report.

Hollis Glaser’s American Democracy Project grants developed a public-speaking course for non-native speakers of English and a presentation skills class for emerging leaders in the immigrant community. Glaser, Shereen Bingham, and Nora Bacon in English are also working on the second round of a $100,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to help the campus create an environment, which can support difficult dialogues.

Barbara Pickering’s commitment to encouraging civic engagement, begun in Speech 2120, is also found in the dual level course in Political Communication. Students first learn the theoretical foundations of political communication research. In Fall 2004, more than 400 students and community members together to watch and discuss the students were an integral part of the Debate Watch 2004 project, which brought more Presidential/Vice-Presidential campaign debates. This project, supported by the American Democracy Project and School of Communication contributed to the University mission of community outreach.

2005 School headed by Dr. Jeremy Lipschultz joins new College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media under interim Dean Welk.


2006 Dr. Gail F. Baker appointed dean of the new college as School continues to win honors in teaching, research and service.

Dean Gail F. Baker

Fall 2006- The Speech Center Consulting Room opens. The Speech Consulting Room (ASH 185) offers consulting and coaching services for UNO students, graduate students, faculty, and staff from all majors in an effort to support effective presentational skills, the UNO oral communication general education requirement, and UNO’s “Speaking Across the Curriculum” program.

2007- UNO Forensics team headed by Abbie Syrek is 25th in Nation. PRSSA wins the UNO Strategic Planning Award for Community Engagement.

2008- UNO Forensics wins 3rd at State and 13th at Nationals. Dr. Karen Kangas Dwyer wins 4th Reilly Professorship