Dr. Theodore (Ted) Clevenger Jr. earned his doctorate at The Florida State University in 1958 and returned 10 years later as chairman of the Department of Speech. By that time, he had earned a national reputation as an authority on audience response and quantitative methods in speech research.
His contributions to the university and to the study of speech communication were extraordinary. Colleagues described him as “positive and energetic.” His passion for knowledge endeared him to students and faculty alike.
“He was the ultimate scholar,” said Dr. Gary Heald, associate dean and Clevenger Professor of Communication. “He saw intellectual value in so many areas. He was interested in being not only the teacher but also a student. That’s a very special gift.”
Under his direction, the department grew into the College of Communication and he became its first dean in 1976. It was under Dr. Clevenger’s direction that the choice of majors program was developed, offering students a choice of academic-oriented or career-oriented majors, with some overlap in curriculum. Enrollment skyrocketed as a result.
He helped found the campus radio station, WVFS (V-89); edited the Journal of Communication from 1965 to 1968, served as president of the Speech Communication Association from 1972 to 1973 and the president of the Association for Communication Administrators from 1982 to 1983, and published more than 60 articles and books. He is credited with adding the term “stage fright” to the lexicon in a 1958 article on the speech anxiety disorder that was published in The Quarterly Journal of Speech.
His service to community was also noteworthy. He was a member and past president of the Tallahassee Kennel Club, and he served on the boards of the The Salvation Army and the Monticello Opera Company.
He stepped down as dean in 1993, three years after learning he had contracted HIV from contaminated blood that he received during surgery in 1984. Further tests revealed that he had passed the virus to his wife, Charlotte. Always the teacher, he was kind but candid when he told his shocked faculty and staff that he had asked to be reassigned because the virus had drained him of the energy needed to run a college. “It’s very sad. It brings home the tragedy of that disease,” said then-Provost Robert Glidden.
At a memorial service after his death in April 1995, Meryl Warren, his secretary for more than 18 years, said Dr. Clevenger would be remembered for his personality and humanity as much as for his many accomplishments.
“The thing that he taught me was when you work in a state bureaucracy, you have to never lose sight of the people,” Ms. Warren said. “You’re doing this not just for the rules’ sake. You’ve got lives and futures in your hands.”