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Distinguished Faculty

Richard Johannesen

Professor Emeritus, Communication

Richard Johannessen

In more than three decades of service to the Department of Communication, Dr. Richard Johannesen made a significant impact on the department, its students, and its reputation for excellence. “Dick embodies the three facets of great university involvement-- teaching, research, and service,” says associate professor Dr. Kathleen Valde. 

As a professor, Dr. Johannesen clearly made a lasting impression on his students. Former student Martin Medhurst, a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Golden Anniversary Honoree, explains, “Dr. Johannesen was a meticulous and effective administrator. But more important than his administrative abilities were his influence on students and his contributions to scholarship.” Among his students, many have gone on to be noted professors of rhetoric at such institutions as Baylor University, Brown University, and Loyola University. It is no surprise that Dr. Johannesen received three awards for excellence in teaching while at the university. Dr. Karen Whedbee, Assistant Chair in the Department of Communication, shares, “I am frequently contacted by colleagues around the country who inform me that they were students in Dr. Johannesen’s classes. That so many of his students went on to complete Ph.D.s and become accomplished scholars and teachers in their own right is evidence of his continuing contribution to NIU’s reputation.” 

In the research arena, Dr. Johannesen has long been recognized as one of the foremost scholars in communication ethics. His highly acclaimed book, Ethics in Human Communication, now in its 6th edition, is required reading for many communication ethics courses throughout the country. As one reviewer wrote, “It provides an impressive survey of issues and concepts of ethics in communication […] and should be consulted by every scholar interested in communication ethics.” Dr. Johannesen’s scholarship spans not only communication ethics, but also theories of contemporary rhetoric and critical analysis of contemporary public discourse. He has edited five books, published 13 book chapters, 24 scholarly journal articles, and presented 33 papers at professional conferences. 

During his time at NIU, Dr. Johannesen served the university in a number of capacities. In the Communication Department, he was Graduate Director for 17 years, then Chair of the Department for eight years. As Chair, he worked to attract faculty with national reputations as professors and scholars, a standard that continues to this day. Described as diligent, organized, and visionary by his colleagues, Dr. Johannesen was an exceptional administrator whose influence is still felt in the department, long after his retirement in 2002. Along with Martha Cooper, he also organized NIU’s Ethics Consortium and helped establish the interdisciplinary minor in ethics. Beyond the university, Dr. Johannesen’s prolific research and publications have helped cement the Department of Communication’s reputation for excellence. 

When Dr. Johannesen arrived at NIU in 1971, one of his immediate goals was to build the national reputation of the department’s M.A. program. More than a quarter century later, it continues to be ranked as one of the top programs in the country, a fitting legacy of the vision and determination of Dr. Richard Johannesen. 



by Cameron Orr