Remembering journalism professor Dr. Hugh Culbertson (1935-2023)

Published: January 17, 2024 Author: Ken Klein

Journalism Professor Emeritus Hugh M. Culbertson — namesake of the award-winning student public relations society at Ohio University — died December 29, 2023 after brief hospice care.

  • Colleagues described Culbertson as smart, thorough and collegial with a sense of humor (sometimes salty)
  • Alumni created a scholarship as a tribute to Culbertson’s outreach to international students
  • Students respected Culbertson by naming the Scripps Public Relations Student Society of America (PRSSA) chapter in his honor

Culbertson’s family requests that donations, in lieu of flowers, be sent to the Hugh M. Culbertson Scripps PRSSA Chapter. The national PRSSA organization consistently recognizes the OHIO group as an outstanding chapter.

“Dr. Culbertson was an integral part of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism for close to 30 years,” said Eddith Dashiell, the school's director. “He established an international reputation as a scholar and professional in public relations.”

As professor emeritus, Culbertson posted “Some Reflections on a Modest Intellectual Journey: Mine,” briefly describing his upbringing on a Michigan farm and mainly focusing on his approach to teaching.

“I became convinced that learning is a two-way street,” Culbertson wrote. “Both teacher and student learn from each other.”

Culbertson joined Ohio University’s faculty in 1966; he retired in 1994 and taught part time until 2003.

“Hugh's warmth and good humor were infectious, and his kindness and generosity toward international students was legendary,” said Professor Emeritus Daniel Riffe of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media at University of North Carolina. Riffe was a Journalism graduate student at Ohio University in the mid-1970s; he later worked with Culbertson as a faculty colleague in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism starting in 1995.

“As a scholar and teacher, he enabled students at every level—undergrad to doctoral—to see communication in conceptual or theoretical ways that helped us better understand professional practices,” Riffe said. “After serving in the Army, I came to Ohio University as a master's student to become a nuts-and-bolts professional journalist. After working and studying with Hugh, I left with a far richer understanding of journalism's role in society.  I carried that with me through my own career as a teacher and scholar.”

(From left) Bin Yang, Charlene and Hugh Culbertson, and Dr. Qing “Larry” Chen pose for a selfie during a visit in the fall of 2019.
(From left) Bin Yang, Charlene and Hugh Culbertson, and Dr. Qing "Larry" Chen

In 2020, OHIO alumni Bin Yang (MSJ ’94) and spouse Dr. Qing “Larry” Chen (MSJ ’92/MBA ’94) created The Dr. Hugh Culbertson and Dr. Robert Stewart Scholarship in Journalism as a tribute to their professors in Athens. Stewart is director emeritus of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism. Make a gift to the scholarship fund in memory of Dr. Culbertson or learn more at ohio.edu/give.

“Hugh Culbertson’s support for international graduate students set him apart,” recalled Stewart. “Many, many graduates around the world will miss him.”