James K. VanLeuven, a prominent public relations educator, died of cardiac arrest on March 26 while on vacation with his wife, Susan, and their grandchildren in Orlando, Fla. He was 72.
VanLeuven taught public relations at five universities in the western United States, including Oregon State, the University of Idaho and Washington State. He chaired the department of journalism and technical communication at Colorado State for nine years before becoming the first holder of the Endowed Chair in Public Relations at the University of Oregon in 2000. VanLeuven retired from university teaching in 2006.
An enthusiastic and gifted classroom instructor, VanLeuven challenged both undergraduate and graduate students to think strategically. He was instrumental in the development of professional master’s programs in both Denver and Portland. At Colorado State, he implemented a then-innovative student portfolio review process for graduating seniors. At Oregon, he organized the Portland Experience internship program as well as study trips to corporations and agencies in Portland, Seattle and San Francisco.
VanLeuven chaired the Educators’ Advisory Committee of the Institute for Public Relations and was a member of the 1999 Commission on Public Relations Education. Most notably, VanLeuven spearheaded the milestone PRSA Body of Knowledge project, which, in 1988, codified and abstracted the then-extant academic literature in the field. He served on the editorial boards of Public Relations Review and the Journal of Public Relations Research. He also was book review editor of the Review from 1983 to 1988 and associate editor of the Review from 1988 to 1991.
In 2004, he became one of the original co-authors (with Dan L. Lattimore, Otis Baskin, Suzette Heiman and Elizabeth Toth) of a leading current public relations textbook, Public Relations: The Profession and The Practice.
VanLeuven’s research interests focused on applications of behavioral and managerial concepts to public relations practice and on international public relations. He received a Fulbright Teaching/Research Award to the National University of Singapore. He also was a professional associate at the East-West Communication Institute in Hawaii and a visiting international fellow at the Kuring-Gai College (now the University of Technology) in Sydney, Australia, where he helped develop the school’s communications curriculum.
Jim was an always-cheerful, enthusiastic, collegial and caring individual who was genuinely concerned about his profession and about people–qualities that earned him the respect of professionals, educators, university administrators and students. In recognition of his accomplishments, VanLeuven was named the 1999 recipient of the Swede Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award, the highest honor given to a member of PRSA‘s Colorado Chapter.
Jim is survived by his wife, Susan, sister Jane Hardy, daughter-in-law Margaretta VanLeuven, and two grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his son, Tom, and his daughter, Kate. Friends are invited to send remembrances to the family, Skyline at First Hill, 725 9thAvenue #1503, Seattle, WA 98104.
A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, at Trinity Episcopal Church, 609 8th Ave., Seattle. A reception will follow. The family suggests memorial contributions in Jim’s name to the Skyline at First Hill Residents Association, 725 9th Ave., Seattle, WA 98104, or to the Oregon State University Foundation to support the Kate VanLeuven CSSA Award, 850 SW 35th Street, Corvallis, OR 97333, or to Trinity Parish Church to support an Episcopal Service Corps intern (address above).