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Kim Rotzoll, longtime dean of College of Communications, dies

Craig Chamberlain, News Editor
217-333-2894; cdchambe@illinois.edu

11/4/2003

Kim B. Rotzoll
Photo by Colleen E. Cassity
Kim B. Rotzoll

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Kim B. Rotzoll, recently retired as the dean of the College of Communications at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, died today (Nov. 4) in Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana from complications related to cancer. He was 68.

Rotzoll, a professor of advertising who specialized in media ethics, led the college from 1992 until Aug. 21 of this year, when he was succeeded by interim dean Ronald Yates.

As an administrator, Rotzoll demonstrated a "love for this college … that rubbed off on a lot of people," Yates said. "It
was his life. This place was everything to him." He was a very positive thinker, "always ready to try something new," Yates said, and also "such a decent, honorable man."

"We will miss him very much," said Nancy Cantor, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. "Kim was a beloved figure on this campus, with a door that was always open for students and colleagues, at home as well as at the office, whether he was teaching, acting as department head, or most recently as dean of the college. He was generous with his time and his ideas, and he was devoted to this university."

The College of Communications consists of the departments of journalism and advertising, the Institute of Communications Research, and the Division of Broadcasting, including the WILL radio and television stations.

Prior to becoming dean, Rotzoll was the head of the department of advertising for nine years, and during that time "there was no question it was the best in the country," Yates said. The department continues to be regarded as among the best, as do the other three units within the college, a testament to Rotzoll’s leadership, Yates said.
Rotzoll was born in 1935 and received a bachelor’s degree in advertising in 1957 from Pennsylvania State University.

He then worked for four years as a television/radio account executive with Ketchum, MacLeod & Grove Inc. in Pittsburgh and in Columbus, Ohio, before returning to Penn State for graduate school. In 1965, he earned a master’s degree in journalism and in 1971 a doctorate in sociology.

Rotzoll joined the advertising faculty at Illinois that same year. From 1980 to 1983, he was the associate dean of the College of Communications, and in 1983 was named the head of the department of advertising. That same year, he also was named research professor in the Institute of Communications Research and the director of the James Webb Young Fund, which supports advertising graduate students.

Rotzoll was the co-author, editor or co-editor of six books. He also had numerous articles published in academic journals or as chapters in books. In addition to media ethics, his research focused on the study of advertising as a social and economic institution in society, and he was an expert on the work of practitioner and critic Howard Luck Gossage.

Rotzoll became dean at a time of dramatic change for the college, when it had to rely less on public sources of funding, Yates said. "He had to go out and become a
fund-raising, development dean … he had a lot of weight on his shoulders to make sure the college stayed viable and solvent." He also worked hard at relations with college alumni.

Among the college’s accomplishments during Rotzoll’s tenure was the establishment of the Roger Ebert’s Overlooked Film Festival, also popularly known as "Ebertfest." The annual festival, sponsored and organized by the college in cooperation with Chicago Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert, celebrated its fifth annual run in April.

"He was just a great movie buff," and played a large role in getting the festival started, Yates said, so in many ways the festival is a fitting part of his legacy.

Rotzoll is survived by his wife, Nancy Benson Rotzoll; two sons, Jason of Champaign, and Keith of Williamsburg, Va.; and two grandchildren.

Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society or Westminster Presbyterian Church, 1700 Crescent Drive, Champaign.

A memorial service will be held on a date to be determined.