Dean Hewes' Obituary

Professor Dean Hewes

Dean Hewes passed away on Thursday, December 16, 2021, after a brief battle with cancer. Dean passed away peacefully in hospice care in the presence of his dear friend and former wife, Patricia (Patty) Merrill.

Dean was a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities. Dean received his doctorate in 1974 from Florida State University. He went on to hold positions at Arizona State University; the University of Wisconsin, Madison; and the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He joined the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities in 1988. He retired in 2020 and was conferred emeritus status in June 2021.

Dean was tireless in advancing communication studies scholarship, especially in interpersonal communication and small group communication. He was passionate about questions concerning cognitive influences in interpersonal communication; the dynamic nature of social interactions and group decision making processes; and group emotions. He was fierce in advancing provocative theoretical arguments, often for the sake of encouraging his students and colleagues to think outside the box. Dean’s last incomplete project focused on dynamic interaction analyses–the-turn-by turn emotion expressions within group conversations. His thoughts live on in our work on dyadic dynamic systems analysis.

Dean’s scholarship and his impact on the discipline is profound. He has taught a generation of interpersonal communication scholars who are now themselves accomplishing great things. Several of his papers continue to be standard reading in interpersonal communication graduate seminars. Dean was honored with the 2016 NCA Lifetime Achievement Award in Group Communication and NCA’s 2016 Charles Woolbert Award for an article that has stood the test of time. 

How to describe a colleague one has known for many, many decades? Dean was a kind, kind man–salt of the earth, as the late Chuck Berger described him to me several years ago. Dean was one of the most erudite and sophisticated theoretical thinkers I have met. Chatting with Dean was like a peripatetic walk through any and all topics–you could not be too sure where it may take you, but you could be darn sure the conversation was interesting. 

Dean’s office door was always open. He was always ready for a conversation about the latest research, any and all intellectual questions, his latest fishing trip on Cass lake, the birds and dogs he used to have, or his favorite TV shows. He was humble, yet proud. His sense of humor was suffused with compassion and humanity. He knew the complexities of the human condition. Dean struggled with depression for many, many years. His own struggles made him a fierce advocate for mental health. 

The biggest honor we can bestow on our fellow colleagues who were with us for so long is to share how we remember them. My favorite “Deanism” is this: Dean, I, and then-graduate student Mike Lee (now at the College of Charleston) stood in our mailroom. As I am known to do, I boasted about my great universal abilities. People should just ask me and there would be world peace. After a bit of awkward silence, Dean turned to me with a kind smirk on his face and said, “So, what you’re telling us is that your shit don’t stink?” We all burst into laughter. It was the best moment!

Please do share your memories, favorite stories, and Deanisms with us. I and his colleagues here at the U. will miss him so very much. Gifts to the Communication Studies Special Projects Fund may be made to honor Dean’s legacy, All funds will be awarded to a graduate student in Dean Hewes’ honor. 

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