Melvin DeFleur, renowned mass communication scholar and Manship School distinguished professor, dies at 93.

Manship School of Mass Communication Distinguished Professor Melvin DeFleur

The renowned mass communication scholar Melvin DeFleur, a Manship School of Mass Communication Distinguished Professor, died February 13, 2017. He was 93.


DeFleur and his wife Margaret DeFleur joined the Manship School faculty in 2004. Earlier that year, DeFleur retired as professor emeritus of mass communication in the College of Communication at Boston University.


“Mel DeFleur was a titan of mass communication scholarship,” said Dr. John Maxwell Hamilton, former dean of the Manship School. “His many books, and the theories and concepts he developed, are pillars of our field. Our school was fortunate to have him on the faculty at a time when we were building our doctoral program.”


DeFleur was a pioneer in mass communication theory research. He also made significant contributions to the disciplines of sociology and psychology. Everette Dennis, dean and CEO of Northwestern University in Qatar, a friend, colleague, and long-time collaborator of DeFleur, called him “a veritable gift to journalism and mass communication studies, having migrated from sociology where he invented the field of media sociology and helped map media studies through his contributions to communication theory, history and industries as well,”


DeFleur wrote more than a dozen books over his 50-year academic career; his work is considered the gold standard at mass communication schools around the world. DeFleur’s “Theories of Mass Communication” textbook has been translated into 10 languages. “Understanding Mass Communication,” co-written with Dennis, has gone through eight editions since it was first published in 1981.


“As his co-author for more than 40 years, I knew him as an inspiring thinker and scholar with a practical bent,” Dennis said. “His impact was wide and his influence profound. His work was widely read and some of his studies became classics in the field.”


In 1999, DeFleur’s “Milestones in Mass Communication Research” was honored by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) as one of the 10 most significant books of the 20th century.


AEJMC honored DeFleur again in 2003 when it presented him with its Paul J. Deutschmann Award for Excellence in Research, a prestigious award that recognizes a body of significant research over a career.


DeFleur’s nomination for the Deutschmann award read in part: “His contributions are so well known as to be among the basic building blocks of our field. Scholars…are simply uninformed if they don’t know and appreciate his work.”


In addition to the Manship School, DeFleur served on the faculties of Indiana University, the University of Kentucky, Washington State University, the University of New Mexico, the University of Miami, Syracuse University and Boston University. Twice, he was a Fulbright Professor to Argentina.


DeFleur received his bachelor’s degree from St. Louis University, and his master’s and doctorate from the University of Washington. He served as a sergeant with the United States Marine Corps during World War II, participating in combat against Japanese forces on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Guam and Iwo Jima.


He is survived by his wife, Peggy, who remains on the Manship School faculty.