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The Communicator


Richard Barton

Longtime Faculty Member

Richard Barton headshot

Longtime Penn State communications faculty member Richard L. Barton, who led the growing graduate program among his many duties during his career, died Aug. 21, 2021, at his home in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania. He was 80.

Dick was a scholar, environmentalist, sage, wit, musician, cyclist, jokester, husband, free spirit, friend, mentor and "dogster."

Born in Terre Haute, Indiana, on Feb. 22, 1941, he grew up in Dayton, Ohio with his parents, sister, grandmother and his select group of friends, the Dayton boys, who were an influence on his life to the end. Dick was a boy with a bike and paper route who listened to late night radio and loved his grandma's cinnamon rolls. He was a track man from grade school on and became a radio announcer in his teens.

His first advanced degrees were from Ohio State University and Ohio University. He studied poetry, honing his love of word play, claiming he didn't need drugs to see chairs dancing. His father's death during his freshman year compelled him to grow up fast and to be self-reliant.

Dick married his wife, Ann, in 1968 — that tumultuous year — and together they took off for their big adventure in the Pacific Northwest. It was at the University of Oregon that he earnd his Ph.D. in communications.

The newly minted Dr. Barton arrived at Penn State in 1972, in a Triumph 250, packed to the gills with all his belongings, Ann and a dog to begin his long and fruitful career, culminating with an associate deanship in the then-College of Communications.

He wrote a book, did research, served on committees, but mostly tended to his students, guiding them through the critical moments of their development. Dick introduced undergraduates to a bigger world view through forays to Canada and England. He instilled good teaching practices into the grad students under his watch, embraced the recruitment of student diversity, and was mentor for many around the world.

He loved Maine, spending his summers there, pursuing environmental endeavors and enjoying its sheer beauty. Dick lived in his beloved old farmhouse with his wife, his musical instruments, and his ever-evolving family of dogs and cats, most recently his black lab and ginger cat. He watched baseball, birds and people — relishing their quirks.

His wonderful eclectic collection of friends came from all over and he was happiest when playing music with them or engaging them in incisive conversation. He would be delighted if they chose to give a gift of kindness to our "four-legged" creatures and/or Mother Nature in his memory.

Dick Barton was a force to be reckoned with - admired, applauded, appreciated and loved. He will be missed unabashedly.