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Sunday, October 1, 2023


Theorist receives award

Professor Emeritus of Communication Robert L. Heath was honored last month in Dallas for his contributions to the study of communication.

The Issues Management Council awarded him the W. Howard Chase Award, which recognizes "organizational excellence in issue management," according to IMC’s Web site.

"I think it’s a great recognition for him," School of Communication Director Beth Olson said.

Although officially retired since 2006, Heath continues to teach communication courses at UH after 35 years in academia.

"I started my academic career teaching social movement rhetoric, among many other topics," Heath said.

Heath is also set to receive the Excalibur Legacy Award from the Public Relations Society of America on June 21 for lifetime accomplishments, which include 17 published books and numerous articles devoted to aspects of the communication field, such as public relations and crisis management.

"We here in the school know that he’s been a publishing powerhouse for his entire career of 30 plus years (and) I doubt that there’s anybody in the school, or before that, that can match his publishing output," Olson said. "He has a really wide ranging influence and it’s nice to see that recognized."

A graduate of the Western State College of Colorado, Heath earned his Bachelor of Arts in speech communication in 1963, later earning his Master of Arts from the University of New Mexico and then a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois.

"The 1960s and 1970s were a fascinating time of social, political and economic activism," he said of his early career.

An environmental activist, and at one point president of the Common Cause Houston chapter, Heath got involved in learning what role companies should take in response to activism in the late 1970s.

"I know that young persons… simply cannot understand the social ferment of the times," he said. "It was exciting."

Heath got involved with issues management, a field that he has pioneered, which he describes as "public policy (that) both facilitates and constrains what companies want to do to make a profit and achieve their missions."

His career has also included serving as a consultant for many large corporations such as Sterling Bank and Texaco. Heath has also lectured about handling communication problems between corporations and social welfare in Asia, Europe and the Pacific.

Heath credits the School of Communication while modestly accepting the recent recognition from both professional organizations that approached him about the awards.

"I was elated, (but) not so much for what it says about me," Heath said. "I think that is trivial, but what it says about the strength of our program."

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