Former CCIM dean remembered for zest for life, storytelling

Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

September 21, 2009

Earl Conn
Earl Conn
The Ball State community is saddened by the passing of Earl Conn, a former journalism professor who served as the first dean of the university's nationally recognized College of Communication, Information, and Media (CCIM).

Known as a modern day storyteller for his keen ability to paint pictures with words in his many books and newspaper articles, Conn died Sept. 20 at age 82 after a short illness.

"Ball State's reputation for rigorous academics delivered at the hands of caring, mentoring teachers owes much to professors such as Earl Conn," said President Jo Ann M. Gora. "The university also is indebted for his diligent leadership and determination in helping to establish the College of Communication, Information, and Media, as well as his lasting dedication to its thousands of students through the years. On behalf of the entire Ball State community, I extend to his colleagues, friends and family our deepest sympathy."

Conn first joined Ball State's faculty in 1958 and left in 1962 to become editor of Quaker Life Magazine. He returned to the university in 1964, rising to the rank of journalism department chair in 1984. 

He was named the first CCIM dean in 1996, when the college was founded, and retired two years later.

"You couldn't help but notice and enjoy Earl's zest for life," said Roger Lavery, the current CCIM dean. "He always seemed energized and engaged.  I don't believe he ever really retired.  I looked forward to my lunches with Earl because his wisdom, his wonderful sense of humor, his interest in writing and his observations of the world around us enlivened our conversations. He was a delightful storyteller.

"The day we dedicated the David Letterman Communication and Media Building in 2007, Earl suggested we take a photograph of all four of the college's deans together — Earl Conn, Scott Olson, Michael Holmes (former acting dean who is now associate director of Center for Media Design's (CMD) Insight and Research unit) and me," he said.  "It now seems Earl's suggestion reflected his respect for history, his foresight and his love for the college he helped create."

Conn began his journalism career in his hometown of Marion, Ind., as a sports writer for the Marion Chronicle in 1943-45 and then served as a staff writer in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force and United Press bureau in Louisville, Ky. Before taking a position at Ball State, he taught journalism classes at Somerset and Richmond high schools. 

He was inducted into the Indiana Journalism Hall of Fame in 1997 and was a founder of the Midwest Writers Workshop.

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