Archive for Friday, March 2, 2001

Bassett, former journalism dean, dies at 72

March 2, 2001


— Edward Bassett, a former Kansas University School of Journalism dean, died Thursday at home. He was 72.

Bassett nurtured two generations of reporters, editors and photographers as a faculty member and administrator at five major Universities, including KU from 1970-1975.

Bassett had been undergoing treatment for liver disease.

Dana Leibengood, who served as assistant to the dean during Bassett's term at KU, said Bassett presided over a time of considerable growth in the journalism school.

Bassett brought in several new faculty members, attracted more recruiters to campus, hired the first black faculty member and established the first distinguished professorship. He was a nationally-known figure with contacts throughout the journalism community.

"The fact that he was here gave the school a lot of visibility," Leibengood said. "He was one of the most respected journalism deans."

Lee Young was associate dean while Bassett was at KU, and a personal friend of the dean.

"I just remember him being a very, very hard worker," Young said. "He really gave himself to his job and to the school. I just remember the energy he had."

In 1993, Bassett won the nation's top award for journalism school administrators, presented by the Freedom Forum, an organization that promotes free speech and journalism education.

"When he accepted the award, Bassett told the deans in the audience to be ambitious, and then he paused and said, 'for others,"' said Gerald Sass, retired executive vice president of the Freedom Forum.

"I thought that was classic Ed Bassett," Sass said. "He put others, faculty and students, ahead of himself."

Even in top administrative roles at universities, Bassett maintained a connection to new journalists by insisting on advising students and teaching.

Bassett also did what many academics don't he remained grounded in the profession with periodic stints in the working press.

When Bassett was executive editor of the Statesman Journal in Salem, Ore., the newspaper's owner, the Gannett Co., named it "Best of Gannett" for its news coverage. Gannett also recruited him as an adviser when it established USA Today and later named him to the company's board of directors.

John McMillan, who was publisher of the Salem newspaper when Bassett served as editor from 1980 to 1984, said Bassett was a mentor to young journalists and a leader in bringing greater racial and ethnic diversity to journalism.

"I think that he was a wonderful motivator," McMillan said.

Bassett was born in Boston on Feb. 27, 1929, and raised in Decatur, Ill. He graduated from Washington and Lee University in 1951. After he earned a master's degree in 1955 at the University of Michigan, he worked for four newspapers, including the Louisville Courier-Journal, before moving in 1960 to the University of Iowa, where he earned a doctoral degree in 1967.

Bassett's first administrative job was chair of the journalism department at the University of Michigan in 1969-1970.

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