A Special Tribute to Dr. Kim Rotzoll
Media Ethics (10th edition) is dedicated to the memory of our co-author through seven editions, our colleague and friend, Dr. Kim Brewer Rotzoll, August 21, 1935–November 4, 2003.
Kim Rotzoll served as Dean of the College of Communications, Professor of Advertising, and Research Professor in the Institute of Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He held a B.A. in advertising, an M.A. in journalism, and a Ph.D. in sociology from the Pennsylvania State University. He was co-author of Advertising in Contemporary Society, Advertising Theory and Practice, and Last Rights/Revisiting Four Theories of the Press, and editor of Is There Any Hope for Advertising? The author of a number of journal and professional articles, monographs, and papers, he had been president of the American Academy of Advertising and served on the board of directors of the Illinois Press Association. View his vita.
Dr. Christian’s Tribute Tribute to Kim Rotzoll
November 8, 2003
by Cliff Christians
Our hearts are heavy for our fallen comrade, fellow educator, dean extraordinaire—Kim B. Rotzoll. His spirit is lovingly carried today in the everlasting arms of the Almighty. We find consolation, and in this service, celebration. But the sudden loss of our soul brother Kim leaves us broken down and lonely.
Kim Rotzoll was a prince of a man. I worked with him as a faculty colleague since 1974 and for 14 years as a department chair in administration with him. We did research together and collaborated on a textbook. He taught with me a course in media ethics. I have observed his work on all levels and have admired him under every circumstance–considerate, generous through and through, a creative thinker, and the supreme model of servant leadership. If higher education canonized its best, he would be a saint. It has been one of life’s academic pleasures to be his colleague, and I’ll honor him always.
In Plato’s academy, they offered daily sacrifices. When Rev. John Harvard in 1639 opened a college, all students went to chapel in order to keep their souls fresh. The moral philosophy course was taught to seniors in universities and colleges until late into the 19th century—our own President Gregory teaching this course too, he after whom Kim’s daily home for three decades is named.
From Plato to Gregory at Illinois , we pursued knowledge from its presuppositions. Our philosophy of life had to be in shape for the particulars to mean anything worthwhile. In that education was a transcendent appeal to the supernatural, to normative ideas. And in today’s sensate age, such metaphysics are impossible to maintain.
In lieu of chapels and sacrifices, our leader Kim chose the only alternative, that is, good conscience incarnate. Education for him centered not in the cranium, but the human spirit—in values, beliefs where the mortal takes on immortality. Rather than live with an empty center, he embodied the ideal. He brought the university’s grander mission into his very being. So his generous heart was inviolable. Collegial relations were honored. Decisions were based on justice rather than expediency. There was always a spirit of good will, even on those days we didn’t deserve it. The saintliness he lived as his everyday habit, the way of civility he carried forward to the end—inspire our mind and being. Through the mystery of divine providence, the history we recount will become historic, Kim’s everyday – permanent.
Kim Rotzoll—Socrates’ man of virtue. But splendid teacher in the Socratic tradition as well. He held every position in the College of Communications since joining the faculty in 1971—from Assistant Professor through Department Head to Dean. These positions and promotions represented the University’s respect for him, returned from Kim to us tenfold. And during these demanding assignments, he taught with distinction. He won the College of Communications Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and the University’s Luckman Distinguished Teaching Award—the highest recognition this campus gives for teaching. Even as Dean he taught a Freshman Discovery class, team-taught upper-level undergraduate majors, and a graduate seminar. He understood the ancient wisdom that administrators with feet on their desk should have their heart in the classroom.
Even post-Dean, he couldn’t stop teaching. Our last meeting at Gregory Hall was the Wednesday before the Chicago weekend before Monday in the hospital. He was on his way to his Discovery Class, “Advertising Ethics.” The zest for learning, his eyes sparkling, a small tale and anecdote, videos in his packet—Kim was the indefatigable teacher until his voice could speak no more. The hospital room finally precluded the classroom, and intensive care for him foreclosed his care for the students he loved.
With my Monday class, we begin the section on Advertising Ethics. And as for 20 years, Kim would be teaching it until Thanksgiving. Now we have only his presence and wisdom from the book. But as we learn moral discernment together, the students and I will be learning at his feet. I can think of no finer memorial than a Professorship in his name. Thank you Ron Yates, Nancy Casey, Don Mullally, and the others, for this splendid idea.
He co-authored Media Ethics with me, first crafted in 1983, and a delight from his clever mind ever since. Only days before he entered the hospital and died, he completed the chapters on advertising ethics for edition number 7. As the proofs come back, the good memories will stain the pages with our tears, but we’re dedicating the book to him. His legacy in communication ethics will not grow cold.
- gifted teacher
- winsome administrator
- lover of film
- master of the liberal arts
- with equilibrium always.
The warmth in my heart for him will never diminish.
And to you, Nancy, Keith and Tami and your family, Jason, in the Presbyterian language close to Kim’s heart,
“May our loving God wipe away the tears from your eyes, shine His face upon you, and give you peace.”
With my affection.