History of the Department

History of the Department

Here at The College of Wooster, the Department of Communication has had a long and distinguished history. President Louis Holden (President from 1899-1915), who himself had been a professor of oratory at Beloit College before assuming presidency at Wooster, founded the Department of Oratory at the College in 1900.

The Department did not firmly establish itself until 1908, with the arrival of Professor Delbert Lean. Lean had studied public speaking at Emerson School of Oratory (today known as Emerson University) and argumentation at Harvard. Under his leadership and that of President Charles Frederick Wishart (President 1919-1944), the major in speech was created in 1930.

President Howard Lowry (President 1944-1967) would go on to institute the College's Independent Study program in 1947. Lowry was mentored by Lean and as an undergraduate at the College, was the first president of Wooster's Delta Sigma Rho chapter, the national forensics honorary. Professor Bill Craig succeeded Delbert Lean as chair of the Department in 1946 and directed a 1951 production of Our Town at the College in which the author, Thornton Wilder, served as the narrator. For his part, J. Garber Drushal taught the first course in communication sciences and disorders.

Upon President Lowry's untimely death in 1967, Drushal moved from chair of the Speech Department to President of the College, where he served until 1977. In 1981, the Department divided into the Department of Theatre and the Department of Communication.

Today, the Department of Communication resides in Wishart Hall, named after President Wishart, described in the building's plaque of dedication as "Master of the Spoken Word." Wishart eloquently defended Wooster's decision to teach evolution against attacks by William Jennings Bryan in 1922, three years prior to the famous Scopes trial. Wisarth Hall was erected in 1966, with much of the building funds coming from the citizens of Wooster and Wayne County, a tribute to the Department's ties with the surrounding area.

In the Fall of 2020 The Department of Communication which included both Communication Studies and Communication Sciences and Disorders have become their own separate departments creating The Department of Communication Studies and The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders.