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Prof dubbed ‘Mr. University of Iowa’

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Updated: December 12, 2012 6:41AM

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Samuel Becker, affectionately dubbed “Mr. University of Iowa” for his decades-long commitment to the university as teacher, scholar and philanthropist, has died. He was 89.

Mr. Becker, who was born in Quincy, Ill., died on Thursday in Iowa City, Tony Porter of Lensing Funeral and Cremation said Friday.

Mr. Becker earned three degrees from UI in the 1940s and ’50s. He became a professor, a chairman of what’s now called the communication studies department and interim provost, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.

The Communications Studies Building was named for Mr. Becker in 1993, the year he retired.

“He was an excellent leader, team player, and true gentleman,” university President Sally Mason said in a statement Thursday. “We extend our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends as they mourn the loss of a man who was universally admired and respected.”

Mr. Becker served in the military during World War II and joined the University of Iowa faculty in 1950, earning his Ph.D. a few years later.

“We grew up with students regularly around the house. The university was in our living room all the time,” said Mr. Becker’s son, Craig, who also noted his father’s involvement in Democratic politics and the peace movement.

Just two days before his death, he was “very happy about the results” of the presidential election, Craig Becker said.

Mr. Becker, known for wearing bow ties and suspenders, compiled a wide-ranging academic catalog. His published research included work about televised presidential debates, the impact of mass media and smoking prevention.

“The Iowa department of communication studies is known throughout the field
. . . as being a very free-flowing, open place where people can do work that can seem very oddball,” said UI professor Kristine Munoz, who came to the university when Mr. Becker was interim provost in the mid-1990s.

Mr. Becker twice came out of retirement to serve in leadership positions at the university — as interim provost and as interim head of the School of Art and Art History.

Mr. Becker told the Gazette in Cedar Rapids in 1995 that the university has “been awfully good to me, and I feel I owe it something.”

Lensing Funeral and Cremation said no memorial service is planned.


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