Journalism department founder retires

Dr. George Michael Killenberg

Article published by The Crow’s Nest on April 27, 2011
Natalie Wagner, Contributing Writer
Photo by Aimee Alexander/Crow’s Nest

After 23 years, Dr. George Michael Killenberg, professor and founding director of the Department of Journalism and Media studies, retires.

Dr. Killenberg, who has taught thousands of students since he joined the USF St. Petersburg campus in 1988, grew up spending time with his father who edited for a daily newspaper in his hometown.

Before Killenberg joined USF St. Petersburg campus, he spent 15 years at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville where he directed the graduate studies program in mass communications.

He came to USF St. Petersburg campus with a task to accomplish, building a Journalism and Media Studies program from scratch.

After working long hours in the journalism department, Killenberg hired his first faculty member, Dr. Robert Dardenne.

“I persuaded him to leave the University of Tennessee and come down here and after lots of very hard work, we were able to get the program started and later accredited.” Killenberg said.

Dardenne and Killenberg share a lot of commonality for journalism. “We had lots in common and spent a lot of time together. We both seemed to have a journalistic conscious,” said Dardenne.

Killenberg believes building the program, initially a graduate program, was the most rewarding part of his career, not only as a teacher, but also as an author and print journalist.

Killenberg is “very passionate,” Dardenne said. “The Journalism and Media Studies program is like a child he birthed, and has watched change and evolve over the years.”

Not only has he seen the program change, but he has also seen the transformation take place in journalism following the information age. “In 1980, at the L.A. Times we had three computers for the entire newspaper, and the Internet was nothing at that time,” Killenberg said.

In 2004, the Journalism and Media Studies program received a full first time accreditation in both the undergraduate and graduate programs by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Dardenne led the department to be accredited again in 2010. The Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication requires the lengthy process every six years to keep accreditation.

“USFSP was a ghost town in the daytime and at night the campus came alive,” Killenberg said of when he first started teaching about 23 years. “It has been a privilege to see the university bloom, especially over the last five or six years. This is a place where you know your professors and they know you.”

His accomplishments at USF are numerous, including chairing USF St. Petersburg’s Strategic Committee; creating the Neighborhood News Bureau; heading the task force that created the campus mission, values and vision statement; and chairing the faculty governance council.

In 1998, he received the Professorial Excellence Award, and in 2006 he received the emeritus award for distinguished faculty members as an honorary award.

He started his phased retirement in 2006 and at the end of the 2011 spring semester he will be closing his grade book for good. “I love teaching,” Killenberg said.

Killenberg has been a “founding and guiding light for this program, and we will be very sorry to see him go,” Dardenne said.

Killenberg plans to spend most of his time after retirement being a “reverse snowbird” in Wisconsin,” he said, “reading for enjoyment, playing golf, maybe helping out a local newspaper Dora County Advocate, and I have a few book ideas.”

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