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Joe W. Milner, a pioneering Arizona State University journalism professor who laid the foundation for what would become the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, died Sunday at his home in Tempe. He was 87.
Milner taught at ASU from 1967 until his retirement in 1991, leading the program to new heights. As department chair from 1970-1979, he was responsible for transforming ASU’s Department of Mass Communication into a nationally accredited program and leading the department’s move into the new Stauffer Hall in 1973.
“Joe really put Arizona State’s journalism program on the map,” said Cronkite Professor Douglas Anderson, who served as the school’s director from 1987-1999 and was hired by Milner in 1979. “He did the heavy lifting that got the department national accreditation.”
Milner, a Fulbright scholar who studied in East Pakistan from 1963-1964, taught mass communication law throughout his 24-year tenure at ASU’s Department of Mass Communication, which became the Cronkite School in 1984.
At his retirement in 1991, Milner became a professor emeritus at the Cronkite School. The Joe W. Milner Scholarship was established, which continues to support high-performing Cronkite students, pursuing a journalism degree at ASU. He also continued to serve as a board member of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees.
“Joe set the Cronkite School on a path toward national excellence,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “He understood the importance of national accreditation and the impact it could have on our school. He was a tremendous teacher, who will be deeply missed. His legacy will continue on through the countless students he mentored and his scholarship.”
Milner was born Jan. 2, 1929 in Winnsboro, Texas, to O.K. and Annie Milner. He earned his bachelor’s degree from East Texas State University in 1954 and his master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1955. He received his doctorate from the University of Wyoming in 1963.
Milner was an accomplished journalist, serving as a reporter for newspapers in Texas, including the Dallas Times Herald and The Greenville Herald. He also was a journalism instructor at Eastern New Mexico University before earning his doctorate.
Prior to joining ASU, Milner was the head of the journalism department at the Mississippi State College for Women from 1957-1958 and a professor at the University of Wyoming from 1960-1967.
Milner received the Distinguished Newspaper Advisor Award from the National Council College Advisors in 1965 and was the national president of the American Society Journalism Administrators in 1978. He also was an early active member of the Southwest Education Council for Journalism/Mass Communications in the 1980s.
Milner is survived by his two sons, Derek and Brent, who is a 1996 graduate of the Cronkite School, and his longtime companion Ginger Dude. Memorial services have yet to be announced.