by Robert Stewart, Director; Professor
Professor emeritus Russ Baird passed away this past Thursday at the age of 89.
A few fortunate students who were editors of their high school newspapers have received the Baird scholarship, which took a healthy bite out of their tuition bill.
But most journalism students in recent years probably know the Baird name because they have taken courses in Scripps Hall 001 or 006, known collectively as the Baird Graphics Laboratory. When originally named back in 1985, these labs were where Dick Bean and Tom Hodges taught students in the Graphics of Communication courses. Today, students in these labs could just as easily be editing non-linear video or putting together Southeast Ohio magazine. Russ was perfectly fine with that, I suspect. [read article from Spring 1992 Ohio Journalist]
The last time I talked to Russ was quite a while back when my colleague, Mary Rogus, wanted to know how Russ would feel about students who were editors of their online high school newspapers winning the Russ Baird scholarship. When I posed the question to Russ he said, yes, it would be fine for it to go to editors of online newspapers, given all of the changes happening in our industry.
Honestly, I didn’t know Russ that well. By the time I arrived at Ohio University in 1987 he had been retired for six years [read article]. Until a few years ago, Russ and his wife, Tate, hosted the annual graduate student picnic at their New Marshfield Christmas tree farm. I would see Russ at these events, usually driving around his property in a utility vehicle to fetch supplies or ferry folks up to the farmhouse. Before buying an artificial tree a few years ago, I would always try to buy a fresh tree from Russ because it gave me a chance to have at least a short visit, and get a tree at a good price.
Russ died at the farm house after having spent several weeks here in town at one of the nursing homes. From what I heard, he wanted to get back home as soon as possible, before it was too late. I’m thankful that he did.
Russ Baird in 1970
Here are the passages from his obituary that relate to his career that included a long, meaningful run with the School of Journalism. I refer you to the Athens Messenger for the balance of the story.
[Russ Baird] earned his bachelor’s degree at Kent State University and attended a special program at Ohio State University before earning his master’s degree at the University of Wisconsin in 1947.
He began his journalistic career very young, reporting for the Parma Citizen during high school summers. While at Kent State, he was a Kent Bureau reporter for the Akron Beacon Journal and also worked in the sports publicity office at the university.
While in the U.S. Army during WWII, he wrote on military subjects and reported for the famous Stars and Stripes newspaper, serving as a combat correspondent. A participant in the Battle of the Bulge, he was awarded a Bronze Star for covering news under fire.
His academic career began at Bowling Green State University, where he taught for five years before being recruited by George Starr Lasher at the Ohio University School of Journalism. In addition to teaching, primarily journalism history, typography/graphics, and magazine production, he wrote four books and numerous articles, monographs and abstracts.
The first book was “Industrial and Business Journalism,” published in 1961. Most widely used among his texts were “Graphics of Communication,” with long-time office mate A.T. Turnbull, and “Magazine Editing and Production,” with J.W. Click — each going through six editions. A non-text, “The Penal Press,” funded by a Baker Research grant to study prison newspapers, attracted the attention of both state and national correction officials, resulting in his being invited to take part in a number of relevant commissions. It was named one of the most outstanding academic books of 1968 by the editors of “Choice,” a publication of the Association of College and Research Libraries.
Honors received during his career included the Kent State University’s naming him Alumnus of the Year in 1964, the Society for Professional Journalists’ giving him the Distinguished Teaching in Journalism Award in 1982 [read Aug. 1983 Ohio Journalist article], and the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism designating its graphics lab in his name in 1985.
He was active in the Society of Professional Journalists (SDX) and the Association for Education in Journalism (now AEJMC), for which he had served terms as chairman of the Graphics Division and as a member of the Magazine Division. He was executive secretary of the Ohio College Newspaper Association for 10 years.
After his 1981 retirement from full-time teaching, he enlarged the family’s Christmas tree farm near New Marshfield and became a prolific producer of holiday trees.
Upon receiving the SPJ award, Professor Emeritus Baird commented on his philosophy of education: “I found all I have to do is get out of their way and let them get through with their learning, and the job is done.” He also often expressed love for Ohio University and the Athens area, saying, “I’ll always, as an organic gardener, think of my faculty colleagues as the best manure spreaders in the world because they have made the academic soil at the OU School of Journalism so fertile that anybody can grow as a student or as a teacher.”
Also noted in the obituary was the following: In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to either the Russell N. Baird High School Editor’s Award at Ohio University (Ohio University Foundation, P.O. Box 869, Athens, OH, 45701, 740-593-1882); or to the Appalachian Community Visiting Nurse Association (ACVNA, 30 Herrold Avenue, Athens, OH, 45701, 740-594-8116).