University of South Carolina

Fitzpatrick awarded communication field’s top honor

By Peggy Binette,, 803-777-7704

The University of South Carolina knows Mary Anne Fitzpatrick as dean of its College of Arts and Sciences, the university’s largest and oldest college. Scholars in the field of communication know her as one of its best scholars.

Fitzpatrick was honored with the most prestigious worldwide award in the field of interpersonal communication Nov. 18 at the National Communication Association’s 98th annual convention, held in Orlando, Fla.

John Daly, Liddell Professor of Communication at the University of Texas at Austin, said Fitzpatrick’s scholarly contributions merited her selection for the NCA’s Mark L. Knapp Award in Interpersonal Communication.

“In more than 30 years of scholarship, Mary Anne has made so many significant contributions that it is hard to name just one or two. She created theoretical models of relationships that have, and are, being used everywhere today. A book she did a number of years ago literally shaped the direction of research on personal relationships for decades,” Daly said. “She has mentored a large of number of younger scholars who owe much of their career successes to her. She epitomizes the sort of brilliant scholarship we most admire in the academic world.”

The National Communication Association is the largest communication association in the United States and presents a limited number of awards annually. Fitzpatrick’s selection for the Mark L. Knapp award was based on scholarly contributions across her career, the importance of her research in shaping the understanding of interpersonal communication and her excellence in demonstrating effective interpersonal communication through mentoring, teaching and public service.

Fitzpatrick, who came to USC in 2005, said there is no greater honor for a scholar than to be recognized by one’s peers.

“The job of a university administrator is to create the space for faculty and students to do scholarly work that stands the test of time,” Fitzpatrick said. “In my own career, I was the beneficiary of that kind of enlightened leadership and it is what I aspire to do every day in my role at South Carolina.”

As an authority on interpersonal communication, Fitzpatrick has written more than 100 articles, chapters and books. Her research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Mental Health and the Spencer Foundation.

Among her most influential works are the books “Explaining Family Interactions,” “Between Husbands and Wives: Communication in Marriage,” “Aids: A Communication Perspective” and “Communication in Family Relationships.”

In addition to her role as chief academic and operating officer of the College of Arts and Sciences, serving more than 13,000 students and 700 faculty members, Fitzpatrick also serves vice provost for special academic initiatives for the university.

An active member of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) since 1983, Fitzpatrick was nominated president-elect in December 2011. In 2012, she was named a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS). A past-president of the International Communication Association, Fitzpatrick received its 2001 Career Achievement Award for sustained excellence in communication research.

Prior to USC, Fitzpatrick was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she spent more than 25 years and held several posts, including the WARF Kellett Professorship. She also was deputy dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, vice provost to the provost and chancellor and senior associate dean.


About the National Communication Association

The National Communication Association (NCA) advances communication as the discipline that studies all forms, modes, media and consequences of communication through humanistic, social scientific, and aesthetic inquiry. The NCA serves the scholars, teachers, and practitioners who are its members by enabling and supporting their professional interests in research and teaching. Dedicated to fostering and promoting free and ethical communication, the NCA promotes the widespread appreciation of the importance of communication in public and private life, the application of competent communication to improve the quality of human life and relationships, and the use of knowledge about communication to solve human problems.

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Posted: 11/26/12 @ 1:00 PM | Updated: 11/27/12 @ 4:21 PM | Permalink