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Professor to retire after 36 years

December 1, 2011

BY Deon Broyles

After 36 years of service as a teacher and communication scholar, Prof. Leo Jeffres, 67, has decided to retire from full-time teaching at Cleveland State. After his final semester as a full-time instructor ends this fall, Jeffres, a globe-trotter at heart, plans to take yet another trip around the world. However, he does not plan to totally retire from academics.

“I will continue to teach part-time; I consider myself a work in progress, not a finished product,” Jeffres said. “There are some personal reasons, but it is probably a good time, while I am healthy, to do some traveling and some projects and still be able to teach now and then and continue to do some research.”

Jeffres has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses, and has filled a variety of roles within the School of Communication, including as the chair of the department. Jeffres has also served as interim vice-provost for research and interim dean of College of Graduate Studies.

According to faculty and staff, Jeffres has helped make the School of Communication what it is today.

“He is the heart and soul of this department,” said Kimberly A. Neuendorf, professor of Communication. “To me, he is close to the ideal professor.”

Jeffres was recognized as a Fulbright scholar and during his stint as a Fulbright he taught and conducted research at the University of the Philippines.

He is also a recipient of prestigious awards from the Midwest Association for Public Opinion Research (MAPOR) and the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ). He was recognized as MAPOR Fellow in 1998. Jeffres has served on the editorial board of many journals including Journal of Communication, Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Communication Monographs, and Mass Communication & Society.

In a study of communication scholarship, Jeffres was acknowledged as one of the top 100 most prolific scholars worldwide. He has ranked within the top 30 communication scholars more than once.

In addition to being author and co-author of numerous journal articles and conference papers, Jeffres has written three books on media effects. His last book, “Urban Communication Systems: Neighborhoods and the Search for Community,” published in 2002, explored the role of local newspapers in building social capital in communities.

Prior to teaching for CSU, Jeffres worked as a newspaper writer and taught in the Peace Corps. Jeffres said he worked on all kinds of beats before working at a news desk and a wire desk.

“I was on the wire desk when Haiphong Harbor was mined during the Vietnam War,” he said. “That was an interesting story that came across the wire.”
According to students, Jeffres is a caring, demanding teacher who expects a lot. He likes to use personal experience to illuminate class lectures.

“I appreciate the application of real world experiences to the theory we are trying to learn, because this is such a theory-based program,” said Becky Volderich, a CSU graduate student.

According to faculty members, Jeffres is a world traveler and likes to eat exotic foods. Jeffres said he travels primarily for personal experiences. He has traveled around the world twice, often living on $5 to $10 per day.

While working in the Peace Corps as a young man, Jeffres slept in some strange places.

“I slept on a Judo mat in Burma. In the Philippines, I slept on a hammock in a boat, and I slept on the deck of a ship from Singapore to Jakarta,” he said.

Jeffres is the fourth faculty member to retire from the School of Communication. He is remembered among his peers as a very versatile teacher who is always willing to pitch in.

“Dr. Jeffres has had a remarkable career here at Cleveland State and in the field of communication,” said Dr. George Ray, School of Communication director. “He has been a highly productive researcher. He has published a great deal of research, and he has been an excellent collaborator.”

The College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences will be hosting a retirement reception for Jeffres on Dec. 9 from noon to 2 p.m. The reception will be held in the Waetjen Auditorium Lobby of the Music and Communication building. Friends and colleagues are invited and encouraged to join the celebration.