UTC scholar David Sachsman dies at 77

UTC / David Sachsman
UTC / David Sachsman

David Sachsman, who held the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's George R. West, Jr. Chair of Excellence in Communication and Public Affairs for the past three decades, died Tuesday at 77.

Felicia McGhee, head of UTC's Department of Communications, issued a statement praising Sachsman's "contributions to scholarship in the fields of environmental communication, environmental risk reporting and journalism history." She added that Sachsman published 23 journalism-related books and was working on a 24th at the time of his death.

A native of New York City, Sachsman earned an undergraduate degree in English from the University of Pennsylvania. He went on to Stanford University, where he earned a master's degree in communications and a doctoral degree in public affairs communications.

Sachsman was an educator for a half-century, including service from 1983 to 1988 as chair of the Rutgers University Department of Journalism and Mass Media. He was the founding dean of the California State University, Fullerton, School of Communications, where he served from 1988 to 1991.

He came to UTC in 1991 as the second holder of the West Chair of Excellence and later hosted an annual symposium titled "19th Century Press, the Civil War, and Free Expression." McGhee noted that Sachsman took particular pride in "how the symposium fostered new scholars, with many first attending as graduate students and then continuing to participate in the conference as their careers progressed."

Tom Griscom, the first holder of the West Chair of Excellence, said Sachsman got that post "focused on what it ought to be long-term."

"I was there to get it established, and I brought a more political focus," said Griscom, a former White House communications director who later served as executive editor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press. "David was an academician who brought in a number of well-known people over the years.

"The historical work he did, the symposiums he put on, were all very well done. It'll be interesting to see where it goes from here."

Retired UTC communications professor Betsy Alderman recalled that Sachsman enjoyed a "multilevel" career.

"In addition to his dedication to teaching, he became an expert in, and wrote books on, environmental science," she said. "He taught a senior seminar research course, which he relished. He'll be greatly missed by all those audiences."

Sachsman is survived by his widow, Judy; two adult children, Susanne and Jonathan; and four grandchildren. Sachsman's funeral is scheduled for 9:30 Sunday morning at Mizpah Congregation, 923 McCallie Ave.