In Memory of Professor Donald Browne
It is with heavy hearts that we share the passing of Professor Emeritus Donald R. Browne, a distinguished educator and a prominent figure in the field of communication, on October 7, 2023. Professor Browne had a teaching career spanning 50 years as a Professor of Speech and Communications at Boston University, Purdue University and eventually, retiring as Professor Emeritus from the University of Minnesota where he also served as the department chair for 7 years.
Professor Browne's work on international broadcasting and electronic media has been influential in shaping the theories and practices of communication. Professor Browne's interests and passion for engaging local communities and protecting a pluralistic liberal democracy were rooted in his early career as a foreign correspondent with Voice of America and a foreign service officer in the United States Information Agency stationed in Tunisia and Guinea in the 1960s. He transitioned into an academic career as an assistant professor of broadcasting at Boston University in 1963 and eventually retired from the University of Minnesota in 2010.
By recognizing the sociopolitical and sociocultural contexts in which broadcast systems are situated, Professor Browne provided great insights into how industrialized nations and Indigenous groups faced unique challenges in the modern media landscape. Arguing that the media ecosystems are essential to the health of civil societies, he paid particular attention to government-media relationships, minorities and the media, uses of the Internet, the possible influence of "media barons," and transnational corporations. His work reflects some of the most influential cross-cultural/national comparative studies in electronic media. His book, Comparative Broadcast Systems, received the Electronic Media Book of the Year Award by the National Association of Broadcasters and the Broadcast Education Association in 1989. The book was also selected as an Outstanding Communication Book of the Year by Choice, Association of College and Research Libraries, in 1991.
Recognizing the power of media in social transformation, Professor Browne's book, Electronic Media and Indigenous Peoples, (Iowa State University Press, 1996), provides the first field-based research on the efforts of indigenous peoples, including the Welsh in Wales, Irish speakers in Ireland, Native Americans in the United States and Canada, Sami in Scandinavia, Aboriginals in Australia, Maori in New Zealand, Basque in France, to present and engage themselves through mass media.
Professor Browne has received some of the highest achievements and honors in the field. He was a US Fulbright Scholar at the American University of Beirut in 1973-1974. He was invited and offered congressional testimonies as an expert witness on American international broadcasting and electronic media worldwide before subcommittees of the House of Representatives and the US Senate. He addressed the Sami Parliament in Karasjok, Norway on the use of electronic media by Indigenous peoples in 1995. He received the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Broadcast Education Association in 2007. He regularly offered editorial services for the top journals in Communication, including Quarterly Journal of Speech, Journalism Monographs, Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, and Journal of Communication. Service and scholar at heart, Professor Browne has written over 50 book reviews throughout his career.
The Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota is grateful and honored to have Professor Emeritus Donald R. Browne as our colleague and legacy. His passion for a socially engaged scholarship continues to guide the work of the Department. He will forever be remembered as an extraordinary educator, mentor, and friend, and his influence will continue to resonate in the hearts and minds of all who were fortunate enough to know him and his work. A memorial service will be held in June 2024 in Minneapolis, MN.
Professor Donald Browne’s obituary can be found here.