Wayne A. Danielson, former dean of the then UNC School of Journalism who went on to serve as dean of the College of Communication (now known as Moody College of Communication) at the University of Texas at Austin, died in his sleep Tuesday, Oct. 31. He was 87.
A pioneer in the use of computers to help produce news, Danielson's conversations at Carolina with John W. Carr III, head of UNC’s Computation Center in the 1960s, sparked what became the first newspaper produced by a computer and a computer printer by him, Carr and others.
Danielson earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Iowa in 1952 and went on to earn an M.A. in Journalism and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication Research from Stanford University. He worked briefly at the San Jose Mercury. He taught at Stanford and at the University of Wisconsin at Madison before arriving in Chapel Hill to teach in 1959.
He was a faculty member in the School of Journalism from 1959-69 and was dean from 1964-69. In 1969, Danielson became both professor of journalism and computer sciences at the University of Texas as well as the Dean of the School of Communication, a position he held until 1979.
During his time as an MJ-school faculty member, Danielson advised the school's first doctoral student, Cleve Wilhoit '67. "Keeping up with Danielson’s brilliance as his research assistant," said Wilhoit at the 2016 Spring Research Colloquium and 50th anniversary celebration of the doctoral program, "was like trying to comprehend all 16 of Wagner’s mythological, operatic characters. Tough. Really tough."
Wilhoit also included a now-ironic critique of Danielson from an Iowan editor: "So, a professor at the University of North Carolina thinks a computer may be helpful to the editor of a newspaper. Please let this fellow know that I’m building a computer in my basement. I’m making it out of an old toaster, a broken TV, and a three-way switch. It won’t be very good. But it will be good enough to replace a professor of journalism who thinks computers will have anything to do with newspapers."
Danielson served as president of the Association of Schools and Departments of Journalism, and the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. He was the founder of Journalism Abstracts and served the University of Texas as chair of the Faculty Senate, as chair of numerous committees on information technology, and as chair of the ad hoc Committee on Multiculturalism in the Curriculum. In 2000 he received the Civitatis Award in recognition of his service to UT.
At his retirement from UT in 2003, he shared a final piece of advice from him and his wife LaVonne: “read a good book every week, write in complete sentences and invite your grad students over for spaghetti and meatballs once in a while.”