Remembering Professor Richard Doetkott
The following letter was released this afternoon from the Office of the Chancellor, Daniele Struppa, announcing the passing of Dick Doetkott, professor, Department of Communication Studies, Wilkinson College.
It is with great sadness that I report the sudden passing of Dick Doetkott this morning from a heart attack. He had a first attack last week, and there had been initial optimism that he would fully recover. Dick lived his life with fervor and joy. A wonderful colleague, his spirit and humor will be deeply missed.
Professor of Communication Studies, Dick joined the faculty in 1964. The full measure of his contributions to the university is too long to list. One that will continue into the future, though, was the establishment of the Department of Communication Studies, which he and Richard Watson formed in 1972.
No faculty member could represent better the spirit of shared governance than Dick Doetkott. From his voluntary work, to his service on faculty committees and councils, to his quiet conversations with administrators, he worked to foster an environment of transparent governance and fairness. He was chapter coordinator of the American Association of University Professors on campus. He was chair of the faculty (now called President of the Faculty Senate). He served multiple times on countless faculty committees and was currently serving on the Faculty Personnel Council. He also served as chair of the Department of Communication Studies and Director of Instructional Services.
Dick would want to be remembered for another valuable contribution to Chapman – one about which he was very keen. For years, Dick was the unofficial ombudsman for Chapman University. Sitting in his rocking chair under his little red canopy in front of Argyros Forum, Dick enjoyed using his expertise to help students and faculty solve their problems creatively.
He taught a variety of courses, many of which he developed personally. At one time, he was the only technical theatre professor on campus. However, it was through his development of a unique public speaking course, Communication Studies 101, that Dick gained national recognition. Even though Dick was no longer in the theatre department at that time, he remained theatrical in his attire for his Communications 101 classes. It was not uncommon to see him walking through the classroom dressed in toga, a televangelist suit, or period garments that would have been worn by Clarence Darrow or Stephen Douglas. He frequently portrayed such individuals as he discussed different types of oratory.
Of all of Dick’s contributions, the one he was most passionate about was teaching. One of the most popular professors on campus, Dick was known to thousands of Chapman students and alumni as “The Speech God.” His unique approach to teaching public speaking emphasized the development of a natural, conversational speaking style effective in professional and performance venues. He enabled students to gain confidence in public speaking and to overcome their apprehension about communicating in public.
In recent years, he worked on a book on this methodology, with Lance Lockwood and his wife, former Chapman professor, Dr. Pat Doetkott. The book, Introduction to Public Conversing, was published this fall by Kona Publishing & Media Group. Department of Communications chair, Dr. Fran Dickson, stated that this book ensures that his approach will live on and continue to influence other scholars and professors in the field of communications.
Dick’s professional interests encompassed both theatre and communications. He was the technical consultant for the Rose Center in Westminster. He coordinated the West Coast Conference for Corporate Communications held at Chapman in 1994. Dick also has a filmography. He appeared in Paul Frizler’s movie, “Getting Wasted” and as well in the television series “Higher Education.”
A talented speaker, he was the featured presenter at two major events last spring. In the Wilkinson College lecture series “An Evening with . . . ” he presented “An Evening with Abraham Lincoln: The Gettysburg Address, What You Didn’t Know.” He was also gave the final lecture in the Town and Gown Lunch at the Forum series.
As word of Dick’s passing spread on campus and on the internet, the comments have been flooding in. CoPA staff member Joann King, who was a student in Dick’s theatre classes, noted that Dick regarded every student as an individual no matter the size of the class, and he maintained contact with many former students for decades. Following are comments from several alumni which illustrate the special regard and affection Dick had from his students.
“For the man once described as “dangerous in the classroom,” the “Speech God” himself, Prooooofethorrrrrr Richard Doetkott (rhymes with rocket!). A final standing O and a Full Mickey-with TAIL! Heeeeyup! Oh, lordy, I will miss you.”
From the 1980s: “Such a pistol!”
“I consider myself very lucky to have taken Com 101 from the great Mr. Dick Doetkott. He taught me how to be myself and to be a great speaker in front of others by speaking about Buffy the Vampire Slayer and knowing that if Mickey Mouse could do it, I could do it. Full Mickey Salute goes out to the great Prof. Doetkott. May you know that you have touched so many.
Dick is survived by his wife, Pat, and their children. In lieu of flowers, Pat has recommended that donations be made to: The Westie Rescue; PO Box 5006; Huntington Beach, CA 92615.
As you may imagine with the suddenness of Dick’s death, this is a very difficult time for his family, and they request that no personal telephone calls be made to the family at the present time. Thank you for your understanding.
Chancellor Daniele Struppa