Samuel Becker, namesake for UI's Becker Communications Building, dies at 89


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The University of Iowa lost a cherished friend Thursday.

Samuel Becker, the eponym of the Becker Communications Building, died at the age of 89.

Those who knew him insist he was much more than just a name.

Former UI President Willard “Sandy” Boyd described Becker as a longtime colleague and a cherished friend who wore both crazy and calm bow ties.

“You could go to him for advice,” Boyd said. “He was always interested in people. He was one of the great legends of this university.”

He will be remembered for more of the same reasons the communications building was named after him.

“He was a great man and made unparalleled contribution to his profession and to the University of Iowa and its Department of Communication Studies,” David Hingstman, an associate professor of communication studies, wrote in an email. “He was also a caring man, always cheerful and willing to listen, even to those with whom he disagreed. He will be missed by many in this city and across the world.”

Becker came to the UI in 1940 as an undergraduate, and by 1950, he was a faculty member. He earned a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. at the UI. Becker’s work greatly affected the field of communication studies — he had 10 monographs and 115 journal and book publications. He also received numerous awards — among them the University of Iowa Distinguished Professorship, the University’s Distinguished Service Award, and the Central States Communication Association’s Distinguished Communicator Award, among many others.

Becker retired in 1993, but in no means did he leave the university.

“He retired several times from the UI,” Steve Duck, a UI professor and the head of the Rhetoric Department, wrote in an email. “The first time, he was called back into service as the head of the School of Art and Art History, which he diligently reshaped into a healthy and productive unit. The second time, he was called back as interim provost and he reshaped the Provost’s Office in many significant ways.  Finally, he was allowed to retire but was put in charge of the emeritus faculty, which he successfully built into a valuable resource for the university, recognizing that retirement did not mean that someone could not contribute valuable advice and experience to the university and its decision making processes.”

Becker gave a lot of his time to the university, but he also dedicated a lot of his energy to students, colleagues, and friends in the community.

“Even late into his 80s, Sam would show up each year to welcome the incoming graduate students to Communication Studies and encourage them in their work,” Duck said.

Those who knew him say Becker will be missed by all.

“The University of Iowa family has lost one its leading members,” UI spokesman Tom Moore said in a statement. “Sam Becker was an outstanding educator to generations of students. He was known as a tremendous mentor, colleague, and friend to faculty and staff across our campus. He greatly enriched the lives of many in our community. He was an excellent leader, a team player, and a true gentleman. We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends as they mourn the loss of a man who was universally admired and respected.”

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