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Wayne Danielson, Ph.D.

Obituary for Wayne Danielson, Ph.D.

December 6, 1929 - October 31, 2017
Austin, Texas | Age 87


Wayne Allen Danielson Ph.D. was born on December 6, 1929, in Burlington, Iowa. He was a surprise to his parents, Bessie and Arthur Leroy Danielson, who already had four children ages 21, 19, 9, and 7. As a child, he was not able to participate in athletics due to a bout of rheumatic fever. To compensate, he read all the books in the school library, which would lead to his interest in writing and teaching as an adult.

He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Burlington High School, and went on to the University of Iowa, where he earned a BA in Journalism in 1952. For graduate school, he had numerous scholarship offers to universities around the country and chose Stanford, where he earned an MA in 1953. His thesis was "A Value Analysis of Advice Columns in Newspapers." In 1957, Wayne earned one of the first PhDs in the emerging field of Mass Communication Research, with a dissertation titled "Effects of Word Frequency, Word Length and Grammatical Probability on Perception and Immediate Recall of Words."

At Stanford, he met his first wife, Beverly Kinsell, whose parents owned several California hotels—a contrast to his simple Iowa upbringing. She dropped her plans for medical school to help support his career and raise their four children: Matt, Ben, Grace, and Paul. The Danielson family had many adventures including Scouts, swimming at the lake house, and camping in almost every state.

Before coming to Texas, Wayne taught at Stanford, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of North Carolina—where, at the age of 34, he became one of the youngest deans of a college of communication in the country.

While at the University of North Carolina, he produced one of the first computerized newspapers in the United States. Although revolutionary at the time, not all were impressed. One newspaper editor wrote, "I don't know about Dean Danielson, but I want to assure everyone that his research is out of line and that nobody in the field believes that an automated computer can replace a journalism editor." He added, "I am pretty sure that any editor who thinks it will, is more certain to be replaced."

Dean Danielson joined the University of Texas faculty in 1969, where he was affectionately known as "Dr. D." He served as dean of the Moody College of Communication (formerly the School of Communication) from 1969–1979.

Dean Danielson was one of the premier scholars in the fields of communication and journalism, and highly respected in both the academic and professional worlds. He worked as a reporter and later research manager for the San Jose Mercury-News in California, as well as summer editor of the Panola Watchman in Carthage, Texas. He served as consultant to many US newspapers. The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication named Wayne to its Hall of Fame in 1988.

As a distinguished journalism scholar, he was a leader in introducing technology to journalism education and media audience studies. He was the founding editor of Journalism Abstracts (now Journalism & Mass Communication Abstracts). His research in computers and content analysis led to the development of more than thirty tools such as readability indices, automatic news indexes, and stylistic advice to authors. In other words, Dean Danielson led Big Data research before we even had Big Data!

His wife Bev's sudden death in 1988 left the family devastated. As a grieving widower, Wayne was consoled by numerous relatives and church ladies who would mysteriously leave casseroles and baked goods on his doorstep. It was comforting to have family and friends.

Three years later, when he was ready to date again, he courted and married LaVonne Walker Caffey, an Early Childhood Special Education teacher in the Austin Independent School District who was among the first to integrate technology into elementary-school campus instruction. They had many things in common except their age—she was seventeen years younger than Wayne—but that was not a barrier to the strong marriage they developed. The two spent the next years working at their respective professions, traveling to Europe, Alaska, Maine, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, in addition to building a lovely house in Northwest Austin and updating a 1940s cottage in Fredericksburg, Texas.

In addition to being the second dean of the UT College of Communication, Wayne held various administrative posts including dean of the School of Journalism at the University of North Carolina as well as both chair and graduate advisor of the UT Department (now School) of Journalism.

In the midst of all of these responsibilities, he always found time to assist the University of Texas in other meaningful ways. He served as president of the Faculty Senate (now the Faculty Council), chair of the committee to make recommendations on multicultural programs, chair of the university-wide computer committee, and director of UT's Accreditation Studies.

Wayne also directed PROJECT QUEST, UT's long-term effort to increase the innovative use of technology in teaching and research. He worked with colleges throughout the campus to brainstorm ways to integrate technology into graduate and undergraduate instruction. The computer lab with 200 workstations was the first of its kind available to all UT students. Faculty and students affectionately referred to it as "Wayne's World."

In 1991, the Moody College of Communication created the Wayne A. Danielson Award to recognize scholars who had made significant advances in the field of communication. This annual award honors Dean Danielson for his many contributions to the Moody College of Communication, to the University of Texas, and to the field of communication. In 1993, the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) presented him with the Paul J. Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research.

In 2000, Wayne was named the third recipient of the venerated Civitas Award at UT Austin in recognition of "dedicated and meritorious service to the University above and beyond the regular expectations of teaching, research, and service."

After retirement, Wayne implemented some of the first online courses at UT. He also served as president of the Retired Faculty-Staff Association (RFSA).

Wayne's colleagues bestowed upon him the retirement honor of an Emeritus title after Professor and Dean to make known the high regard in which they held him.

He was a member of Tarrytown Methodist Church, where he presented humorous and insightful lessons to many Sunday School classes for over 35 years—as well as published an illustrated book titled Through the Year in the Church Garden, in which he called attention to "a beauty that we often pass by in our hurry to get on with more important duties in life."

Computers weren't the only type of keyboard Wayne mastered. He also played the piano, organ, and violin. Only months before his death, when speech became increasingly difficult for him, he performed "Joy to the World" on the violin for a group and then spoke about how the notes had remained with him after all these years. He loved music and it stayed with him forever.

On October 31, 2017, at the age of 87, Wayne Allen Danielson passed away peacefully in his sleep after suffering for many years with Alzheimer's.

Wayne is survived by his wife LaVonne, son Matt (Marty) Danielson, son Ben (Jo Ann) Danielson, daughter Grace (Beau) Chimene (all of Austin), and son Paul (Judy) Danielson of Charlotte, NC. Stepchildren include Brad (Erin) Caffey and Kristin (Earl) Proeger both of Austin. He is also survived by fifteen grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

We will miss his calming presence, his bright blue eyes that twinkled with joy and curiosity about life, and his close-knit loving ties with his large family.

A memorial service will be planned for a date in January. The family asks that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to a favorite charity in his memory.

Dean Danielson's title for his 1978 commencement address to the UT College of Communication was "Having the Last Word," so it seems fitting here to quote from that speech and allow him the last word on his life. Drawing thoughts from students, Wayne Danielson constructed what he called "a miniature philosophy for living in our time," based on four principles he had noted in students' words: (1) Determine what the important problems are, study them, and then do something about them. (2) Keep on learning and growing and developing: Run toward life and not away from it. (3) Don't forget that life was meant to be lived, to be enjoyed. Be sure to stop and admire the roses along the way. Get to know and appreciate the people around you. (4) Temper everything you do with a little practicality, a little of the American spirit that Ben Franklin captured so many years ago in Poor Richard's Almanack…. "Yes, the last words today are yours and not mine," Wayne Danielson said. "I am happy to give them back to you. I think they will serve…you well indeed in the years ahead if you remember them and practice them. I hope you will, for then, surely, you will lead interesting and worthwhile lives."

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