Ron Whitt retiring after 34 years at WSC

Chantal Lawson, Staff Writer

Steve Jobs once said, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

It’s a beautiful thing when a career and a passion come together. Communication Arts professor Ronald Whitt, who will retire at semester’s end, has proven that in his time at Wayne State College.

Whitt grew up in Cedar Rapids, Neb. He attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln for a year after graduating high school. He then transferred to what was then Wayne State Teachers College.


There, he found his passion in speech communications through the guidance of Dr. Bob Johnson, Dr. Helen Russell and many other terrific and caring professors, he recalled.

“I also discovered the correlation between class attendance and classroom success,” Whitt joked.

He was also actively involved in WSTC’s debate team. His partner and he won the Nebraska State Debate Tournament and represented Nebraska at the National Debate Championships.

After three semesters here, Whitt decided to “go for the money and enter business,” he said. For the next several years, he worked successfully for several corporations, including the National Cash Register Company and the Lechey-Richards Corporation.

Years later, in 1966, he found his way back to WSC.

“I found myself fulfilling a promise I had made to my family to complete my college education,” he said. In December of 1968, Whitt graduated with a degree in Communication, Business, and Teacher Education.

He went on to work as a businessman until, as he recalls, “a couple of years later, I was sitting in a motel room and thinking, ‘So this is what life is all about.’ The temperature was minus 40 degrees, the roads were closed, and I was two hundred miles from my family. ‘Death of a Salesman’ was the only program on television and I could envision myself as Willy Loman in future years.

“I made the decision that if my career was going to depend upon delivering a product, then the product should not be disposable, should have a lifetime warranty, and should be mutually beneficial to both parties. I decided on a career in education.”

So, Whitt spent the next few years as a teacher and debate/forensics coach at Marquette, Michigan High School.

“It was also there where I realized my greatest professional enjoyment and growth because my students’ endless inquiry provided impetus for my own professional development. To date, teaching for me has been an exhilarating and evolving two-way process between student and teacher–a profession where human growth cannot be readily measured,” Whitt said.

In 1981, Whitt found his way back to WSC yet again, and he landed a position on the faculty as a teacher and debate coach. To date, Whitt is very proud of his work in the forensics program and his students. His passion is clear.

“Wayne State students have won numerous state championships in every forensics event as well having represented Nebraska at four National Oratorical Championships. Many of our past forensics’ competitors have gone on to successful coaching at Nebraska High Schools.

“Others have used their dedication and speaking excellence beyond college competition. They have moved on into medicine, politics, business and industry, law, the ministry, and every level of education. Perhaps one could posit that I really do love this place,” he said.

Although Wayne State College no longer has a forensics program, Whitt has continued to help students develop communication skills through his classroom teaching. His impact on students has been extremely positive.

“In a single semester of his class, I went from being completely terrified of public speaking to being confident in my abilities. Through different clubs on campus I had the opportunity to speak publicly and my progress really showed,” freshman Wil Coenen, a current student of his in Principles of Human Communication, said.

In addition to teaching, Whitt has served on the faculty senate for 23 years. Since he started at Wayne State, he has served nine college presidents and vice presidents as well.

Whitt even passed on his passion for learning and for WSC in general to his children. Each of his five children (David, Jennifer, Robin, John, and Joe) graduated from WSC and lead successful lives of their own, for which he is exceptionally proud. Not only that, but he got to share his passion with his wife, Deborah, through his years at WSC, because she’s a faculty member here as well.



Currently, she serves as Communication Arts Department Chair and as the Director of the Honors’ Program.

Whitt’s exciting, successful and busy life has certainly earned him his upcoming retirement.

“Overall, it’s been a great honor and privilege to spend the majority of my adult life in educational endeavors–especially at Wayne State. Here I formed terrific friendships with outstanding faculty and students,” he said. “For me, it’s more than a place where students gather for a while and faculty/staff give their best energies and are gone. It is my home.

“As for my post retirement plans, ‘Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)’.”