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College of Communication and Information Sadly Loses One of Its Own

Posted May. 25, 2011

D. Ray Heisey, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus and Director Emeritus of Communication Studies at Kent State University, died May 20, 2011, at University Hospitals, Cleveland (Ohio), after a three-month battle with thyroid cancer. He was 79.

Heisey was recognized as one of the major intellectual contributors to the area of intercultural communication. Indeed, Heisey brought his own stamp to the phrase prolific author and scholar. As recently as this month, he was recognized for his earlier assistance and advice in the publication of The Cultural Economy of Falun Gong in China: A Rhetorical Perspective by The University of South Carolina Press.

Many of the research and teaching assignments initiated during his tenure at Kent State and continued after his retirement in 1996 frequently brought colleagues and students at Kent State together in collaboration with scholars and students from the Far East, Middle East, Europe, and North America.

Heisey is remembered as an educator whose enthusiasm for sharing knowledge exceeded the boundaries of the classroom. He loved traveling and experiencing other cultures, having lived in or visited over 40 countries.

Heisey was a prolific author and editor whose publications included numerous peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, books, and popular press publications. Heisey was also the editor of Chinese Perspectives in Rhetoric and Communication (2000).

His publications are reflective of a scholar whose interests extended far beyond a single field of academia and classroom and encompassing multiculturalism, cultural diversity, global communication, political communication, women’s roles and communication, religion in communication, genealogy, and history.

From 1975 to 1978, Heisey was granted leave from Kent State to serve as president and a professor of Damavand College in Tehran, Iran, where he assisted in the educational development of this private, university college for women offering bachelor’s and master’s of arts degrees.

Heisey’s international teaching posts included Peking University, School of International Studies, in Beijing and also Renmin University, Department of International Politics, in Beijing during Fall Semester 1996.

Heisey was a visiting professor for the Estonian School of Diplomacy in Tallinn, Estonia in 1993; the University of Lund, Department of Applied Psychology, Sweden, in 1992; and University of Leuven, Center for Communication Studies, Leuven, Belgium in 1972 and 1973. His stateside visiting teaching appointments included Messiah College, Ashland Theological Seminary in Ashland, Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., and The Ohio State University.

Heisey initiated exchange programs with institutions in England, Sweden, Poland and China. One exchange arranged for editors from the Guangming Daily newspaper in Beijing to come to the Kent for and faculty from Kent State to go to Beijing.

Heisey was presented the President’s Medal in May 1997 by proclamation of the Kent State University Board of Trustees for 30 years of outstanding service to the university. Heisey was the recipient in 1992 and 1996 of the Faculty Award for International Culture from Kent State’s Beta Zeta Chapter of Phi Beta Delta Honor Society for International Scholars. The award recognizes recipients for “building a body of international studies or cultural exchanges which enrich our campus and our community.”  

International honors included an Honorary Professorship in the Beijing University of Self-Study by the university president in 1994 for work in international communication and education. In 1996, Heisey and colleague Wenxiang Gong of Peking University International Politics Department, co-hosted an international conference on “Communication and Culture: China and the World Entering the 21st Century” held in Beijing.

Heisey joined the Kent State faculty as an associate professor in 1966 and was promoted to the rank of professor in 1970. He served as coordinator of the Division of Rhetoric and Communication from 1980 to 1983 and as acting director of the School of Speech Communication from July through December 1993. He was then appointed Director of the School of Communication Studies, a post he held until June 1996.

Heisey graduated in 1954 from Greenville College in Greenville, Ill., where he majored in speech. He completed a post-graduate program in 1957 at Messiah College in Grantham, Pa., with a major in theological studies. Heisey earned a master’s degree in 1955 from The Ohio State University in Columbus in speech and a doctoral degree in 1964 from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., with a major in public address and group communication.

Previous to joining Kent State, Heisey held a number of teaching and administrative positions at Messiah College form 1955 to 1966 including chair of the Division of Language, Literature, and Fine Arts, Director of Debate, and Head of the Speech Department.

Heisey was born in Gladwin, Mich., Jan. 9, 1932, and was raised in Louisville, Ohio. He attended Kent Presbyterian Church since 1968 and had been an active member of the choir and frequent contributor in adult education.

He was an avid genealogist, serving on the board of the Brimfield Historical Society, and authoring Healing Body and Soul: The Life and Times of W. O. Baker, a leader in the Brethren In Christ denomination (BIC).  Heisey himself was an ordained minister in the BIC church..

In addition to his wife, Susanne (VanValin), whom he married in 1959 and who accompanied Ray on most of his world travels, survivors include sons Kevin (Elizabeth) and grandchildren Erin, Megan, Clare and Paul of Chagrin Falls, Ohio; Alec (Alece) of Mechanicsburg, Pa, and Ian (Christine) of Cleveland; sister, Ruth Blackketter, of Leedey, Okla; brother, Marion J. (Beverly) of Albuquerque, New Mexico; and numerous nieces and nephews.  He was preceded in death by his brother, H. Orville.