Douglas Trank

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Deceased - October 13, 2014  


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September 8, 1944


Christine Quinn Trank


Heather (1972), Jessica (1976)



Central States Communication Association Past President and Hall of Fame Member, Douglas M. Trank, 70, died of congestive heart failure on October 13 at his home in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. After a life dedicated to teaching, he willed his body to the Vanderbilt University Medical School. There will be no visitation and a memorial service will be held at a later date. Doug was born on September 8, 1944, in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Walter Trank and Hazel Stegeman. His family moved to Holdrege, Nebraska after his father returned from WWII, and he graduated from Holdrege High School in 1962. He received his BA and MA from the University of Nebraska at Kearney and his PhD from the University of Utah in 1973.

He is survived by his wife, Christine Quinn Trank, his sister, Beverly Stitt, his two daughters, Heather (Todd) Haigh and Jessica (Brandon) Pierce, and four grandchildren, Emily and Ashlyn Haigh and Brooklyn and Isabella Pierce.

With his passing, the discipline has lost another of its giants and the world has lost a gentle and caring individual. Professor Emeritus of the University of Iowa, Doug dedicated himself to the promotion and development of the discipline of communication through his published work, extraordinary record of service, and the countless number of students and colleagues who have been influenced by his exceptional teaching and guidance.

Doug authored over fifty publications and delivered numerous lectures and conference presentations throughout the course of his career. Communication education was the cornerstone of his research, with specific concentration given to the basic course, secondary education, and teacher training. Doug’s extensive work in these areas has provided the discipline of communication with a longitudinal understanding of these areas as well as justification for communication instruction at all academic levels.

Doug also worked tirelessly to advance the discipline of communication and the scope of its influence through his extraordinary record of service. At the departmental and university levels, he served as chairperson of the Department of Rhetoric at the University of Iowa from 1984 to 1989 and from 2001 to 2004. He also served as head of Communication Education at the University of Iowa for 30 years. Doug was also responsible for developing and maintaining the Department of Rhetoric Professional Development Program, a pre-semester and weekly seminar for graduate instructors at the University of Iowa. This teacher training program has prepared thousands of educators for the classroom and has become a model program for departments and universities around the country.

At the state, regional, and national levels, Doug served as president of the Virginia Forensic Association in 1974. He served as a president of the Federation of Iowa Speech Organizations from 1977 to 1979 and was a member of its Board of Governors from 1975 to 1989. He edited the Iowa Journal of Communication from 1977 to 1980. He also served as president of the Iowa Communication Association from 1980 to 1982 and was a member of its Executive Committee from 1976 to 1985. He received the Citation Award for Lifetime Leadership from the Iowa Communication Association in 1990. Doug served as president of the Central States Communication Association from 1990 to 1991 and was a member of the Executive Committee from 1989 to 1992. He became a member of the Communication Education Editorial Board in 1980 and served as Editor of the journal from 1994 to 1996. He was elected into the Central States Communication Hall of Fame in 2009, and the top paper award for the Basic Course Interest Group is named in his honor.

Doug’s dedication to teaching encompassed all levels of education. He had taught junior and senior high school communication in Ogallala, Nebraska for three years prior to attending graduate school. In addition to his instruction at the graduate level, at his insistence, he also taught at least one freshman-level course each semester throughout his entire collegiate teaching career. He long recognized the vital role of freshman-level courses in not only laying the foundation for successful academic and professional lives but also attracting new communication majors.

As a mentor and an advisor, Doug’s support, encouragement, and guidance were fundamental to the scholarly interests and development of countless students as well as many colleagues throughout the discipline of communication. He always made himself available to junior colleagues, serving as a mentor for many people in the discipline and providing the same wisdom and compassion he offered his own students. Doug consistently placed others ahead of himself, frequently offering support and guidance behind the scenes and insisting that others receive recognition rather than him. He will serve as an inspiration for those in the communication discipline who follow in the future and does serve as an inspiration for those who were fortunate enough to have worked beside him.

Doug, quite simply, was a remarkable scholar and a genuinely good person. He will truly be missed, but his influence on the discipline and on the lives of those who learned from him will continue.