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  • Robert L. Scott
  • Karlyn Kohrs Campbell (bio)

Robert L. Scott was a man of many qualities and interests. He was born on April 19, 1928 and died on July 26, 2018. During his life he performed as a musician, he invited faculty and scholars to enjoy his house and park-size lawn overlooking the Mississippi, and he was an outstanding scholar and teacher, an author, coauthor, coeditor of five books, and he published some 50 journal articles, book chapters, and conference papers. He received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Communication Association, and his name is on the Major Disciplinary Awards Panel on the Scholars Walk at the University of Minnesota.

Scott came to the University of Minnesota as a professor selected to strengthen coursework focused on analysis and evaluation of U.S. and English rhetoric and to enlarge and develop the field of rhetorical criticism. He combined many roles as a teacher, graduate student advisor, rhetorical critic and theorist, and department chair, and his ongoing scholarship brought recognition to him and to the University of Minnesota Communication Studies Department. He worked hard to attract able students. In my case, I first met Scott when I was a Macalester College undergraduate who participated in a demonstration debate at the University of St. Thomas in Saint Paul. Scott was then a professor at the University of Houston, but he was scheduled to become a member of the speech communication faculty at the University of Minnesota in the fall, and he urged me to pursue graduate work in the department that he was joining. [End Page 651]

While teaching beginning courses in public speaking at the University of Minnesota, I completed an M.A., but I lacked the wherewithal to pursue a Ph.D. I hoped to gain a teaching job in higher education to survive, but I discovered that my training and experience were not sufficient; job openings for which I was competent invariably said "no women need apply." I was desperate; I ended up paying for my plane fare to Rochester, New York and accepted a job teaching in the first year of a school that now taught basic coursework, not the courses exclusively focused on physical education. I started a debate team and oversaw the costumes for four plays each year at the State University of New York, Brockport, as it made a transition from a school for training athletic coaches to a general education institution. Given the barriers I had encountered, I taught there for four years. I had no clear sense of my future; I traveled to Italy with friends, was tutored in Italian by an Italian in the United States, and pursued my interests at the University for Foreign Students in Perugia, Italy, which led to a job in Palermo, Sicily, to teach English to Italian students. After that experience, I finally was ready to work for a Ph.D., and I returned to Minnesota and was lucky to complete a Ph.D. under the guidance of my advisor, Robert Scott.

My academic work at Minnesota included courses exploring critical approaches to British and U.S. rhetoric and exploring ways to adapt critical analysis to various kinds of public discourse. Scott was an excellent teacher and advisor—never forcing his students to imitate his work but encouraging us to develop a more sophisticated and expansive knowledge and understanding of available rhetorical literature. He also was a model, a committed scholar who regularly published textbooks, collections, and outstanding essays in communication journals. His critical work provided models from which his students and other rhetorical scholars could learn. My academic relationship with Scott was a powerful influence, which was true for many other graduate students.

Scott was an unusual teacher and colleague. For example, after I joined the faculty at Minnesota, one day he sent me a note that began: "Greater love hath no KKC than this, that a KKC arise from her bed to come take a class for me at 8:15 AM. Would you really do it?" Of course I did; he was off to a convention where he was presenting a paper, but his instructions tomewere "Do what? Anything you want." Then he...


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