From receiving his bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism to being awarded four (according to his vita) honorary doctorates, James Grunig, ’64, credits much of his success to his undergraduate adviser at Iowa State, the late Carl Hamilton.
“I remember looking at the job board in the journalism building at a job for a farm editor at a newspaper in Spencer, which was about 40 miles north of where I was from, and I thought that would have been the ideal job,” jokes Grunig, “but Carl Hamilton convinced me to get out of Iowa.” Not only did Grunig “get out of Iowa,” but also has had opportunities to travel the world.
Shortly after receiving his PhD in journalism and mass communication from the University of Wisconsin, Grunig took the opportunity to travel to Colombia, completing research through the Land Tenure Center. After two years of traveling the country interviewing farmers, Grunig took a teaching position at the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was a professor for 35 years before retiring in 2005.
“After getting the job at Maryland, they wanted me to teach science communication and public relations,” Grunig said. “And after about two weeks I taught students what I knew at the time about public relations. So I started teaching communication theory and I started applying communication theory to public relations which nobody had really done before.” Grunig continued to make breakthroughs in communication theory, becoming a public relations theorist. “How should organizations communicate with publics? How do you listen to your publics and provide them with the information they need?”
Even after receiving numerous awards and honors through his career, Grunig said he especially values the James W. Schwartz Award for Distinguished Service to Journalism and Communication he received in 2002 from the Greenlee School.
After traveling to over 50 countries throughout his life, Grunig and his wife are enjoying their retirement with their family of four children and five grandchildren in Maryland, and often vacation in Oregon for the summers.
Written by Emma Wilson