Distinguished Professors

The College of Communication & Fine Arts is proud to feature an illustrious group of distinguished professors who have earned national and international acclaim in their fields, and continue to make significant scholarly and creative contributions in their discipline.

Von der Ahe Chair in Communication & Ethics

The Von der Ahe Chair in Communication and Ethics is one of six ethics chair positions (social values, bioethics, business, accounting, engineering, & communication) designed to provide leadership to develop a strong focus on theoretical and applied ethics for students in film, television, screenwriting, and communication studies … The chairs' appointments have been bestowed upon individuals with the highest levels of achievement, with national and international distinction, in their particular areas of ethics expertise beyond those of a tenured full professor, with the potential and drive to serve in a leadership capacity in their respective colleges and the university at large on issues linked with applied ethics across the curriculum. Professor Lawrence Wenner's position as the Von der Ahe Chair in Communication and Ethics is a joint appointment in both the College of Communication and Fine Arts and the School of Film and Television.

Lawrence Wenner, Von der Ahe Chair of Communication & Ethics

Lawrence Wenner

Von der Ahe Chair of Communication & Ethics

Lawrence A. Wenner (Ph.D., University of Iowa, 1977) is the Von der Ahe Professor of Communication and Ethics in the College of Communication and Fine Arts and the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, where he directs the Forum on Media Ethics and Social Responsibility and teaches media ethics in Philosophy and narrative ethics in the University Honors Program. His earlier notable appointments include serving as the William Evans Fellow at the University of Otago, the Diederich Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Marquette University, the Louise Davies Professor of Contemporary Values in America at the University of San Francisco, and as a University Fellow at the University of Iowa. He has served as Professor of Communication and Media Studies, Executive Director of the Graduate Program in Sports and Fitness Management, and Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of San Francisco. 

Wenner was honored in 2018 with the International Communication Association, Sport Communication Interest Group’s inaugural Legacy Award. This award honors a scholar who has significantly shaped the field of sports communication for the better, and is awarded only when the committee believes a nomination is warranted. Also in 2018, the Wenner-founded and edited journal Communication and Sport won a 2018 PROSE award for “Best New Journal in Social Sciences” from the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers.

Wenner’s research includes nine books and approximately 130 scholarly journal articles and book chapters. He has lectured in more than 30 countries on research focusing on critical assessments of media content, ethical dimensions of race and gender portrayals in advertising, audience experiences with television in the family context, and the values and consumption of mediated sports. Wenner’s notable books include Media, Sports and Society, MediaSport, and Critical Approaches to Television (2nd edition with Leah VandeBerg and Bruce Gronbeck).

His recent book, Sport, Beer, and Gender: Promotional Culture and Contemporary Social Life (with Steven Jackson), explores how mixing beer and masculinity are integral to contemporary commodified sport. A more recent book, Fallen Sports Heroes, Media, and Celebrity Culture, examines the dynamic and moral meaning of sporting celebrityhood gone bad. His most recent book, with Andrew Billings, Sport, Media and Mega-Events considers how media coverage of sporting mega-events have changed the events themselves and their host cities. Wenner is founding Editor-in-Chief of the bi-monthly scholarly journal Communication & Sport, and is a former two-term Editor-in-Chief of both the International Review for the Sociology of Sport and the Journal of Sport and Social Issues.He has edited special issues of American Behavioral Scientist and the Journal of Sport Management on sport communication, currently sits on six journal editorial boards, and has served on numerous other journal editorial boards in media and communication studies, sport studies, sociology, and management. With Andrew Billings and Marie Hardin, Wenner edits the “Studies in Communication and Sport” book series for the Peter Lang Publishing Group. Wenner is featured in Intellect Books Who’s Who in Research: Media Studies and the University of Nebraska Press’ Journal of Sports Media has characterized him as such a “heavy hitter in the world of sport research” that he “may be the most prolific and accomplished scholar in the field.” A commemorative panel featured at the annual conference of the International Association for Communication and Sport honored the silver (25th) anniversary of the publication of his anthology Media, Sports, and Society for being foundational in establishing the scholarly study of media, communication and sport.

Reports on his research and media interviews with Wenner have appeared with CBS, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Network, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, New Zealand Television One, KGO-TV, KTVU, KQED, KIWI-FM, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Washington Post, Financial Times, Newsday, Boston Herald, Hartford Gazette, San Jose Mercury News, San Diego Union-Democrat, Denver Post, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Detroit News, San Antonio Express-News, Otago Daily Times, New Zealand Herald, Sports Illustrated, Daily Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Le Journal du Dimanche, Working Woman, George, Bloomberg Business Week, Prevention and other outlets. In leisure, he plays tennis, sails, bikes, and boards on surf, snow, and skate.


President's Professor

The rank of President's Professor is bestowed upon individuals whose achievements go beyond those of a tenured full professor. A President's Professor is an individual who has achieved national and international distinction for her/his work in any field or discipline represented in the curricula of the University. Such an individual is typically known beyond her/his own discipline by a wider audience. As such, a President's Professor will have earned prestigious awards, titles, or honors for her/his work. As the title denotes these individuals are appointed by the President of the University.

Elizabeth Henley, President's Professor of Theatre Arts

Elizabeth Henley

President's Professor of Theatre Arts

Beth Henley was born in Jackson, Mississippi. Her plays have been produced internationally and translated into over ten languages. CRIMES OF THE HEART (The Golden Theatre) and THE WAKE OF JAMEY FOSTER (Eugene O'Neill Theatre) were performed on Broadway. Off-Broadway productions include: THE MISS FIRECRACKER CONTEST, AM I BLUE, THE LUCKY SPOT, THE DEBUTANTE BALL, ABUNDANCE, IMPOSSIBLE MARRIAGE, and FAMILY WEEK. Her play RIDICULOUS FRAUD was produced at McCarter Theatre as well as South Coast Repertory Theatre. Henley's newest work THE JACKSONIAN premiered at the Geffen Theatre in January 2012 to great acclaim. Robert Falls directed and the cast included Ed Harris, Bill Pullman, Amy Madigan and Glenne Headly.

Henley was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Drama and the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best American Play for CRIMES OF THE HEART. Other awards include: American Theatre Wing 1998 Award for Distinguished Achievement in Playwriting; Susan Smith Blackburn Finalist for CRIMES OF THE HEART and RIDICULOUS FRAUD; Richard Wright Literary Excellence Award 2000; New York Stage and Film Honoree, 2007; ATHE Career Achievement Award, 2010.

Henley wrote the screenplay for the acclaimed film version of CRIMES OF THE HEART for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. The film starred Diane Keaton, Jessica Lange, Sissy Spacek and Sam Shepard. Bruce Beresford directed. She also wrote the screenplay for MISS FIRECRACKER starring Holly Hunter and Tim Robbins. She wrote the screenplay for NOBODY'S FOOL that starred Rosanna Arquette and Eric Roberts, and co-wrote David Byrne's TRUE STORIES. Her television credits include SURVIVING LOVE a film for CBS starring Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen as well as a teleplay for the PBS series, TRYING TIMES, directed by Jonathan Demme.

Henley is a member of The Fellowship of Southern Writers, the Dramatist Guild and the Academy of Arts and Science.

Philip Wander, President's Professor of Communication Studies

Philip Wander

President's Professor of Communication Studies

Philip C. Wander (Ph.D., University of Pittsburgh) is a leading scholar in the field of Communication Studies. In his four decades of scholarly work, Wander has politicized rhetorical studies, challenging and overcoming the separation of professional activity from moral and political engagement. He and his co-authors have tackled topics including pro-slavery rhetoric, Native American and environmental rhetoric, and the rhetoric of American foreign policy; feminist criticism as well as anti-war rhetoric and its relations to issues of fascism, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the two Gulf Wars and Neo-conservatism; and the rhetoric of science, along with media racism and analyses of popular culture texts such as All in the Family, Roots, and Blade Runner. His exploration of "Rhetorical Contextualization" and the "Third Persona" have inspired new generations of critics to read beyond the surfaces of page and screen, to seek out the voices ignored and silenced by more traditional forms of analysis.

Wander's rhetorical ideas about what he thinks, teaches, and writes are conceptualized below, while he provides a "tiny window into personal, national, and global realities."

"Why do we only hear about human rights in relation to federal, state, and local government? And never hear about such rights in relation to corporate government? Everybody knew that, during the rise of Silicon Valley, the acids used to sterilize the chips was being poured into the sewers, creeks, and rivers in and around San Jose, California. Workers at the plants knew—one of my students described to me the daily process of pouring acids into the drain in the basement of a huge complex in South San Jose. Ken Salter, a lawyer in my department, told me that if an employee, on his or her own time, went to a city council meeting and told the truth about a company practice that was endangering the lives of citizens all over the valley, he or she could be legally fired for doing so.

Why do we only hear about negative human rights, our right to assemble, speak, print, and air material about political issues free of government intervention, but never get to hear about positive human rights? The argument, advanced by the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, is not that complicated. If one is too sick, poor, or hungry to gather together with others to talk about and act on political issues, what good are such rights? When millions of people are prevented from participating in the political process, how is democracy possible? Negative human rights presuppose agency—that people are capable of exercising these rights and that government should not prevent them from doing so. In so far as negative rights are held to be necessary and sacred to good government, then positive rights must also be seen as necessary and sacred to good government.

The most obvious silence in our civic discourse concerns not only every citizen in the U.S., but also every human being in the world now and in the future. This is one of the few political issues that transcends class, race, color, religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, and any other division that one can think of. It is an issue of moral importance, obviously, but it is also a quite practical, no nonsense issue: the growing threat to the survival of life on the planet.

Everyone knows, but almost no one talks about it."