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Honoring P. Andersen

Distinguished Service Award Speech: 2008

Committee member John Cagle's tribute to Peter Andersen:

In 1979 WSCA began a new award to recognize individuals who have made "considerable and long-standing contributions both to WSCA and to the field of communication." Since then 29 people have been found worthy of WSCA's highest honor. Indeed, in two years it was decided not to make this award. The criteria for the award are of course written down, but they do not give the award its honor and value. It is the people who have received this award over the years who define why this award is worthy of our highest regard. The names of great teachers, scholars, and leaders are printed in the convention program. I will name a few—not selective but every five years beginning 1979: Thorrell Fest, Fred McMahon, Gale Richards, Thomas Scheidel, Lucy Keele, and Ken Frandsen. In the past three years Leah Vande Berg, Sandra Petronio, and Dawn Braithwaite received the award.

There is not time to name everyone. Their names and lives of our Distinguished Service Award recipients provide role models of what it means to be a professor--unselfishly giving of themselves to their students, to scholarship in our discipline, to leadership and service in higher education, and to the world in which we live. For now, however, may I ask all the recipients of the WSCA Distinguished Service Award in attendance to please stand … and will you join me in expressing again our appreciation.

In 2008 today, WSCA is proud to add the name of another teacher, scholar, and leader to this distinguished group.

Let me say confidently that the person to receive this award today should be known to all of you. This person personifies the qualities I have tried to describe. In this person you will find a passion for life, a passion for addressing real issues in the world, a passion for teaching and nurturing students, a passion for service, a passion for being a human being.

This person has been actively involved with WSCA since 1972—in fact missing only one convention in all these years. The record of service to WSCA builds upon years and years of dedicated service in the trenches of the interest groups as officer and reader, of service as a member of innumerable committees and boards vital to the life of the association. This person has served as Delegate-at-Large to the Legislative Assembly, Member-at-Large of the Executive Council, and First Vice President, President Elect, President, and Immediate Past President of the Association. When a newly selected editor fell ill, this person stepped in with no notice to serve as Acting Editor. In all of these roles this person always strove to make a difference—to encourage us to imagine making the work of the association better, but not forget the human heart at the soul of Western States.

With all of this work to do, was there time for scholarship? Indeed! This person's contributions to the field of communication are significant, having published, at last count, four books, 47 chapters, and 45 articles in refereed journals, plus authored and coauthored 68 competitively selected convention papers for international and national conventions and a number of regional convention papers in addition to those for WSCA—and, get, this, this person actually writes different papers for different conventions! It's easy to see why this person has been acknowledged, in two separate studies, as one of the 100 most prolific communication scholars of the 20th century.

Not living in an Ivory Tower, this person has been incredibly active in communication outreach, in the application of our knowledge and methodologies to make the world a better place. This person worked on two sun safety campaigns for the National Cancer Institute, disaster preparedness for the County of San Diego, and anti-smoking campaigns for the National Cancer Institute and the Colorado Community Tobacco Control Coalitions. His research and civic engagement projects have been supported by over $12 million in grants. This person has served as a communication consultant, given speeches to local service clubs, been a legal consultant and expert witness, presented workshops for primary and secondary teachers, legal professionals, health professionals, and political candidates and organizations, among others, and done media broadcasts on political, nonverbal, and interpersonal communication. As a scholar writing a nomination letter said, "Just summarizing all these activities makes me tired."

Who is this person? A few hints: Who has a BA in Political Science from the University of Illinois at Chicago, an MS in Communication at Illinois State University, and a PhD from Florida State University?

The last published book shows this person's passion for reaching the broadest audiences: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Body Language.

This person has taught at many universities around the country, frequently in a visiting professorship, but finds his home in San Diego, which is great because his wife Jan Andersen lives there! Well—it isn't as simple as that, and I cannot present this award without correcting a rumor that this person has been seen in the frequent company of a beautiful woman in Boston. Jan Andersen is now Dean of the College of Communication at Emerson College in Boston.

By this time it must be clear that the Distinguished Service Award in 2008 is being given to Peter A. Andersen of San Diego State University.

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