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Honoring Wilmot

Distinguished Service Award Speech: 2001

William W. Wilmot, University of Montana
FEBRUARY 2001, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
Karen Rasmussen, California State University, Long Beach

Because of what the Distinguished Service Award represents and the persons who have received it, presenting it is both a privilege and an honor Before talking about this year's honoree, I'd like to do two things. First, thank you to the other two members of this year's selection committee: Betsy Bach of the University of Montana and Dennis Alexander of the University of Utah. Second, would all the people who've received the Distinguished Service Award in the past please stand? These people are indicative of the character of WSCA for they represent a diverse tradition of teaching, scholarship, and service that speaks not only to their own excellence but to the range of activities characteristic of the folks who inhabit Western.

Now to this year's recipient, who truly is a westerner. Raised in the heart of the intermountain West, she or he was trained at two of our universities and, with the exception of a brief sojourn in the midwest, has spent his or her entire career within the confines of Western.

As a member of WSCA, he has held the following positions:

  • Program Planner, First Vice-President, President-Elect, President, and Immediate Past President of the association
  • Member of the Executive Council for multiple years
  • Chair and Vice-Chair of one of our organization's interest groups
  • Member and/or chair of several nominating and search committees
  • associate editor for both the Western Journal of Communication and Communication Reports.

As a scholar, she or he has contributed systematically to a body of literature which is central to many facets in our field by

  • authoring or co-authoring six books, two of which have appeared in multiple editions
  • authoring or co-authoring twenty-plus book chapters and articles
  • writing or contributing to a variety of other reports, instructional manuals, and similar publications
  • giving presentations at regional and national conferences as well as at specific universities and in other venues

Many times we're known by the company we keep, and this person certainly is in good company, having collaborated with people such as Alan Sillars, Donald Carbaugh, Jon Nussbaum, Leslie Baxter, and Joyce Hocker

Perhaps most significantly, this person actualizes our convention's theme of "translating scholarship into practice" for she or he has conducted almost innumerable workshops and served as a facilitator, mediator, and interventionist in both university and community settings.

The letters supporting his nomination describe him as a special mentor, scholar, and teacher whose interactive style of teaching motivates others to meet high standards. They characterize him as creative, enthusiastic, and caring. They say he shatters the stereotype of the ivory tower academic by always grounding scholarly endeavors in actual experience, in≠this label is for the rhetoricians among us--praxis. They laud his positive energy, his sensitivity, and his humor.

But, this guy also is just a tad peculiar, because in many ways he embodies the principle of contradiction. Trained as a technocrat enamored with stochastic models and the like, he habitually operates on intuition; an outdoors buff, he's been known to take his laptop along when he goes backpacking; a crusader for world peace, he hunts wild animals. According to one of my sources, he dreams about thinking like and becoming one with or even being an elk≠or some such quirky thing!!!

The inscription on the plaque we're presenting to him reads: "For his stewardship and service, but, most particularly, for the positive energy he brings to the translating of scholarship into practice."

Members of the association, the recipient of the 2001 WSCA Distinguished Service Award is Mr. Conflict himself, William W. "Bill" Wilmot of the University of Montana.

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