In memoriam

Fall 2015 edition

Remembering Professor Emeritus Paul Jess

Paul Jess, professor emeritus of journalism, died Oct. 22 at the age of 83.

Jess joined the William Allen White School of Journalism and Mass Communications faculty in 1976 and taught editing, reporting and media law. He also served as associate dean, head of the school’s news-editorial sequence and general manager of the University Daily Kansan. He retired in May 1996.

Jess was a corporal in the U.S. Army Infantry in the Korean War and also worked on Pacific Stars and Stripes. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Iowa and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.

Jess began his newspaper career in Iowa and worked as a reporter, editor and makeup editor for the Des Moines Register, the Worthington (Minnesota) Daily Globe and Philadelphia Inquirer. Before coming to KU, he taught at South Dakota State University and University of Michigan.

Professor Emeritus Rick Musser, who started teaching at the journalism school the same year as Jess, remembered his colleague and friend as the consummate journalist.

“They've stopped making journalists and teachers like Paul Jess, and we are poorer for his loss,” Musser said. “Paul actually knew how to run a Linotype. It's how he started in the business. He loved being a copy editor. He always looked forward to his summers in Philadelphia, where he rode the train to work at the copy desk at the Inquirer. He was a green eyeshade kind of guy. He did not suffer fools lightly, but he was a caring and attentive mentor. There was no better colleague and no better friend to sit beside at the bar."

A spread from the Fall 1976 Jayhawk Journalist

Gerald Seib, Washington bureau chief for the Wall Street Journal, said Jess was a friend and a mentor.  

“Paul Jess was everything you would want in a professor: Smart, funny, incisive, approachable. I remember that he would even, on occasion, stop by Dirty Herbie's tavern late on a Friday afternoon to join the Kansan staff in toasting the end of another long week,” Seib said.

Another former student, retired Army Maj. Gen. Gary Patton, said Jess stood out as the model of professorship during Patton’s two years of graduate studies at the J-School.  

“He treated his students like his own sons and daughters — guiding, teaching and drilling us firmly but fairly in the disciplined approach and fundamentals of editing. These proved to be essential lessons that I have applied daily in the military and in business over the past 25 years,” Patton said.

Professor Susanne Shaw, who worked with Jess during his time in the journalism school, said Jess was dedicated to the school and its students.

“He would do anything that needed to be done in the school, and he was a wonderful mentor to students,” Shaw said.

From the Fall 1978 Jayhawk Journalist

From the Fall 1978 Jayhawk Journalist

Shaw said that Jess worked summers on the copy desk at the Philadelphia Inquirer, and that connection helped students get jobs there.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said, “Paul Jess was an outstanding journalist and educator who cared deeply for his craft, his students and the University of Kansas. On behalf of the entire KU community, I offer my sincere condolences to Professor Jess’ family, friends and colleagues. My thoughts are with them during this difficult time.”

Dean Ann Brill said alumni often asked about Jess. 

"He helped them become better journalists, and as their careers grew, they appreciated him even more,” Brill said.

A spread from the Spring 1982 Jayhawk Journalist

Jill Jess Phythyon, a graduate of the journalism school, said her father demanded excellence from his students but also encouraged laughter in the classroom and newsroom. While at KU, he taught at least five students who later wrote or edited Pulitzer Prize-winning stories and series, she said.

Phythyon said her father loved his family, language, cocker spaniels, big-band music and good beer.

Other survivors include his wife, Jan, and two sons, Jim and David. 

Jess, who was a lifelong supporter of higher education and research, donated his body to the University of Kansas Medical Center.

The family suggests donations in his name to Douglas County Hospice, 200 Maine St., Suite C, Lawrence, KS 66044; Lawrence Presbyterian Manor or the John Bremner Editing Center at KU, reference Fund #39750.

– Julie Adam


Elon Torrence, retired Associated Press Topeka news correspondent and 1939 J-School graduate, died at the age of 98. Torrence, who was a U.S. Army veteran of World War II, died Nov. 11, Veterans Day. Torrence covered the trial of two men executed for the "In Cold Blood" murders. He died two days after his wife of 70 years, Polly. Obituary.

Roscoe C. Born, former Washington correspondent for The Wall Street Journal and a former editor of the University Daily Kansan, died Sept. 30 in Randallstown, Maryland. He was 95.  Obituary.

Joseph Blair Cannon, 1948 J-School graduate, died July 10 in Eloy, Arizona. Obituary.

Nora L. Cleland, 1949 J-School graduate, died July 19 at age 86. Obituary.

John Wiedeman, 1950 J-School graduate, died Aug. 3 at age 89. Obituary.

Charlotte Gesey Higgins, 1951 J-School graduate, died Nov. 10 at age 86. Obituary.

Robert P. Sigman, 1951 J-School graduate and member of the William Allen White Foundation Board of Trustees, died Aug. 11 in Olathe. Sigman worked at the Kansas City Kansan, The Kansas City Star and Johnson County Sun and created the Robert Sigman Family Journalism Scholarship to assist journalism students working toward a Ph.D. at KU. Obituary.

Lee Sheppeard, 1952 J-School graduate, died May 30 at age 84.  He was a public information officer and manager for the Tennessee Valley Authority and worked for several Kansas newspapers, including the Lawrence Journal and Topeka Capital. Obituary.

Amy E. De Yong, 1955 J-School graduate, died July 20 in Kansas City, Missouri. Obituary.

Harold F. Metz Jr., 1957 J-School graduate, died Nov. 4 at age 81. Obituary.

Elizabeth Stout Lee, 1960 J-School graduate, died Dec. 16, 2014, at age 76. Obituary.

Jack McCall, 1962 J-School graduate, died July 27. Obituary.

Harold F. (Cotton) Smith, 1962 J-School graduate, died Aug. 8. Obituary. 

Norm Beck, 1963 J-School graduate, died Aug. 26 in Johnston, Iowa. Obituary.

Pamela Matthey Hales, 1970 J-School graduate, died Aug. 21. Obituary.

Jerry Bottenfield, 1970 J-School graduate and former University Daily Kansan business manager, died May 11 in Olathe. Obituary.

Michael E. Banks, 1971 J-School graduate, died June 5 in Lincoln, California. Obituary.

John B. Alden, 1972 J-School graduate, died Aug. 4 in Olathe, Kansas. Obituary.

Michael J. Dutton, 1975 J-School graduate, died Nov. 5 in Olathe. Obituary. 

William R. Calvert, 1976 J-School graduate, died Sept. 15 in Salina, Kansas, at age 61. Obituary.

Richard Thaemert, 1978 J-School graduate, died Oct. 20 at age 59. Obituary.

April L. Wilber Hackathorn, 1984 J-School graduate, died May 29 in Prescott, Arizona.  Obituary.

Aaron Lemieux, 1987 J-School graduate, died June 19 in Marysville, Ohio. Obituary.

Michelle Renee Paradis Kodner, 1988 J-School graduate, died Oct. 23 in St. Louis, Missouri, at age 49. Obituary.

Sandra Moran Pletcher, 1993 J-School graduate, died Nov. 7 at age 46. Obituary.

Olivia K. Maresh, 1998 J-School graduate, died July 16 at age 39. Obituary

Carol Dressler, who worked in the dean's office at the J-School from 1998 to 2005, died Nov. 6 in Mission, Kansas. Obituary.

Robert F. Abrams, 2010 J-School graduate, died Aug. 15 in Plano, Texas, at age 28. Obituary.

Kelly Cosby, a KU graduate and former columnist for the University Daily Kansan, died at age 25. Obituary.