Journalism founder dies

By Jerry Lawrence

Donald Grubb, who helped forge bylines that appear in newspapers across the state and nation and founded NIU’s journalism department, died last week.

Grubb died of cancer early Friday at the Pine Acres Care Center in DeKalb at the age of 68.

“I remember Don Grubb as father-like,” said Jerry Smith, a 1966 NIU journalism graduate and president of Castle Communications in DeKalb. “He took care of the students. He always tried to instill in students the integrity he felt in journalism.”

Grubb started his career as a reporter, editor and freelance writer for newspapers in California, Illinois, Missouri and Utah. He received his Ed.D. from the University of Utah in 1956.

He then established the journalism major at Southern Illinois University before coming to DeKalb in 1959 and founding NIU’s journalism department.

Grubb served as chair of the journalism department for 17 years of his 22-year career at NIU.

When he left the position of chair in 1976, the department had

a full-time faculty of 14, was fully accredited and was serving 800 journalism majors and 700 students from other academic areas. Grubb retired from NIU in 1981.

Graduates of the NIU journalism department have written under datelines ranging from Washington D.C., to the seats of local and state governments across the country.

Ray Gibson, reporter for the Chicago Tribune for 18 years, said, “He was the rock that the department centered around. He brought a lot of faculty talent to start the department off on the right foot.”

Gibson attended NIU from 1967 to 1971 and served as an editor of The Northern Star.

Hallie J. Hamilton, one of the first journalism faculty members Grubb brought to the department, said, “We all know that Don Grubb is the father of NIU’s journalism program.”

Hamilton, who retired from NIU in 1991, also said the results of Grubb’s work are the hundreds of successful people reared by the journalism department he founded.

“Certainly that attests to his success as a leader, a doer and a dreamer,” Hamilton said.

Lonny Cain, managing editor of The Daily Times in Ottawa, Ontario, said, “The last time I talked with Don Grubb, he was challenging me to think and care about what I stood for as a journalist—the same thing he was doing when I first met him as a student at NIU in 1966.”

Cain also said, “In my mind he will always represent the heart and soul of the NIU journalism department.”

Prior to Grubb’s extensive academic work, he served as a Navy Hellcat fighter pilot in World War II.

Besides the hard work Grubb put into the NIU journalism department, he also founded the Southern Illinois School Press Association, the Northern Illinois Newspaper Association, the Northern Illinois School Press Association as well as the Northern Illinois Industrial Educators Association.

Additionally, Grubb published numerous articles, contributed chapters to many books on journalism and testified before legislative bodies on First Amendment press freedom.

After retiring from NIU, Grubb acted as a corporate consultant in advertising and public relations and also coordinated press seminars in Bonn and Berlin, Germany, on East-West press relations.

A funeral service was held yesterday at the First United Methodist Church in DeKalb where Grubb was an active member.

Visitation will be held Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Pyatt Funeral Home in Pinckneyville, Ill., followed by a funeral service at 1 p.m. and burial at the Tower Grove Cemetery in Murphysboro, Ill.

Grubb is survived by his wife Ruby, two daughters, a son and 10 grandchildren.