Emmerson’s Iowa State career spans from being a student in the 1950s, returning in 1974 as a professor, and serving as chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication from 1986-1993. He advised hundreds of journalism students and taught reporting, print media editing, media ethics, American journalism history and public relations.
As an Iowa State undergraduate student in the 1950s, Emmerson was active in student media and wrote an article about the discovery of a plaque commemorating Jack Trice, the first Black athlete at Iowa State. His article helped bring Jack Trice’s story back into memory and was an early milestone in the decades-long movement to name Iowa State’s football stadium after Trice.
As chair of the department, he faced several challenges, including the Board of Regents plan to eliminate the Iowa State Journalism school in the late 80s. Emmerson took a leading role in pushing back against this proposal by writing articles, editorials and newsletters. He also garnered considerable student and alumni, as well as large and small media, support throughout Iowa.
Emmerson graduated from Iowa State University with a bachelor’s in technical journalism in 1960 and with a master’s in history in 1963. He received a Ph.D. in international history in 1973 from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Emmerson retired from Iowa State in 2004.
He was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the Iowa Newspaper Association in April 1999 – the second Iowa State faculty member to be recognized by the INA. The award is presented for outstanding service to the newspaper profession and the community. Nominated by his former students, Emmerson received the 2018 Iowa State University Alumni Association Faculty and Staff Inspiration Award.