Saturday, March 1, 2014
Fourth Floor Assembly Hall, Levitt Center for University Advancement
I am honored to be part of this wonderful reception in honor of Sam Becker, and I would like to thank you for joining us today as we remember and celebrate this remarkable man who defined so much of what the University of Iowa is about today.
There are only a handful of University of Iowa community members who could be called “legends,” and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Samuel L. Becker is without doubt among them. People applied words and phrases like “genius,” “true gentleman,” and “Mr. University of Iowa” to Sam while he was with us, certainly since his passing, and throughout these last few days at the Becker Memorial Conference. I’m sure Sam, in his modest way, would, and no doubt did, brush away such accolades. But that genuineness and humility were among his most notable characteristics.
Sam’s devotion to the University of Iowa and to the Iowa City community was unparalleled. I doubt there is another person who can boast, and perhaps never will again, a seventy-plus-year relationship with our institution as both student and faculty member. Sam was our institutional history; he both knew that history, and he made it.
However, Sam’s longevity with our institution hardly begins to account for his importance to our university, our community, and his profession. He went on to become an internationally regarded scholar in communications, defining much of the field both here on our campus and in the profession at large. His interest in communications extended into surprising areas, including health and technology. He was a true interdisciplinary scholar and was instrumental in shaping the University of Iowa’s reputation for cross-, multi-, and interdisciplinary work.
Sam always felt that our public obligations in our scholarship, teaching, and service were of major importance, and he helped forge the path of our commitment to public engagement that we continue on today. Sam was also among our most devoted and innovative teachers, from enthusiastically teaching freshman courses to mentoring doctoral students and junior faculty members. As a consummate faculty member himself, Sam also provided the most generous and insightful service to our institution imaginable. From chairing his department to serving on the Board in Control of Athletics to serving as Interim Director of the School of Art and Art History and Interim Provost, Sam made his mark on the character of this institution through impeccable and visionary leadership, both before and after his retirement. Sam’s impact on our community was just as profound, as he and his wife, Ruth, contributed their talent and leadership in founding a number of the most significant social service organizations that continue to benefit the Iowa City area today.
Sam Becker’s legacy will of course live on, but his presence and influence, his knowledge and wisdom, and his kindness and generosity are missed by legions of colleagues, former students, and friends not only here in Iowa but also across the world. I am proud that we have been able to honor him this week through the Becker Memorial Conference, the launch of the Community Conversations program, and this reception.