Pisani's passion: "I love working with students," says the advertising professor. "We've been blessed with a terrific faculty." (Photo by David Zentz)
Prof. Kurt Kent, who joined the Department of Journalism in 1970 and originally was scheduled to return in May, left to help develop a new doctoral program at the University of Otago in New Zealand. In his new role, Kent lectures but mostly serves as an administrator helping set up the program – a function he performed at UF.
Kent headed the College’s graduate division and the Communication Research Center in 1976-77 and served as associate director of the division in 1975-76. He became director of graduate studies for the College in 1984 and served as assistant dean for graduate studies from 1989 to 1993.
“In his years running the graduate division here, he built the doctoral program from scratch,” department Chair William McKeen said. “I always knew we could expect brilliant ideas, thoughtful analysis and hard work from Kurt. Over the years, he always did a superb job.”
Kent was also active in international studies in journalism and headed the International Division of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in 1977-78. He mentored students interested in international studies.
“Since that first Reporting class, during office hours, and into graduate school, his enthusiasm toward my academic and professional interests boosted my belief in my journalistic capabilities,” said Lauren Russell, JM 2002, a graduate student in Latin American Studies. “If I said that I wanted to move to Latin America to write, he’d say, ‘How’s your Spanish?’ and wouldn’t hesitate to write a letter of recommendation. He has high expectations of his students.”
In his last semester at the College, Kent earned a perfect 5.0 on student evaluations in the category of “overall rating” for his international seminar, and co-authored a paper on international newspaper Sept. 11 coverage. But nothing, he said, compares to the relationships he’s made.
“The greatest satisfaction has been with my students,” Kent said before he left. “I’ve been working through old e-mails and correspondence and remember them all.”
Claudia Katz, MAMC 2004, recalls how Kent supported her desire to include photography in Journalism as Literature.
“He allowed me and fellow classmates to express ourselves in class,” she said, “and he welcomed heated debates.”
Katz wanted Kent to be part of her thesis committee. “When I heard of his leaving,” she said, “it broke my heart.”
Antoni Castells-Talens, Ph.D. 2004, an associate professor at the Universidad de las Americas in Mexico, said he felt privileged to have Kent as his doctoral adviser.
“Whether I’m teaching, researching, or advising a thesis, I am beginning to understand how much of an impact he has had on me,” Castells-Talens said. “When dealing with a difficult question or an unexpected situation, I find myself thinking: ‘How would Kurt handle this?’ The answer is not always easy to find, but just asking the question makes things easier.”
Pisani plans to teach part-time
Prof. Joe Pisani, who joined the Department of Advertising in 1973, will retire after the spring semester. But he hopes to continue teaching part-time, here or at another college, sometime soon. “I would miss teaching too much,” he said. “It’s in your blood after all these years.”
Tracey Hardin, ADV 1990, met Pisani when she had to decide between advertising and public relations. After speaking with him, she said, it was hands down — advertising won. She soon had Pisani for a course in Advertising Ethical Standards.
“We discussed everything from the Florida Lottery to Ted Bundy,” she said. “It was better than Larry King’s show today.”
Since then, Pisani has been more than just a reference on Hardin’s resume – he spoke at her wedding and is godfather to her son.
“He has been so kind and giving,” she said. “Joe is soft-spoken but heartfelt on so many subjects. He respects you and your beliefs. I’ve never seen him turn away a student when they needed him for anything.”
In 1982, he became chairman of the Department of Advertising and Public Relations. In 1987, the department split to accommodate growth and Pisani headed advertising. He served a total of 18 years.
“I don’t know anybody who’s been a chair of a department of advertising for as long as Joe was,” said advertising Chair John Sutherland . He noted that Pisani once managed and scheduled a high undergraduate enrollment (nearly 600 majors at one point) with fewer faculty members. “It’s really a phenomenal thing he’s done.”
Courtney Bosworth, ADV 1988, MAMC 1990, who worked with Pisani in the department office for about five years, said he always cared about students. “I remember him working late into the night because during the day, he was unable to finish his administrative duties as chair. He couldn’t say ‘no’ to a student.”
An advertising assistant professor at Radford University in Virgina, Bosworth said she wouldn’t be there without Pisani, who encouraged her to consider a teaching career. “Dr. Pisani showed me that wanting a teaching career was not a failure, but a strength.”
Before he came to UF, Pisani worked in advertising and public relations, and since 1972, has served as a part-time consultant to businesses, government agencies, advertising agencies, media and educational institutions. He’s also won numerous advertising and teaching awards, as well as published journal articles and co-authored an advertising text. But those aren’t the things he’ll miss the most.
“I love working with students. We’ve been blessed with a terrific faculty and I’m going to miss a lot of that,” he said. But he’s ready to spend more time with his family and catch up on stuff he’s missed – like going to Gator baseball games and tending to things he’s neglected over the years. “Like our house,” he said. “I got so many things to do to that house, it’d take me a year just to do all the repair work.”
Jennifer Lemanski-Monaco, MAMC 2002, sees Pisani as a mentor and lifelong influence.
“I would always see him jogging near Weimer,” she said, “but he’d hardly get to jog anywhere because so many former and current students wanted to stop him for a quick, friendly chat.”
‘Collegial’ Carson calls it quits
Journalism Associate Prof. Les Carson is set to enjoy a permanent holiday from teaching. Described as “one of the most collegial guys on the faculty” by McKeen, Carson, who retires at the end of this semester, has led a distinguished career as an educator, newsman and historian.
Carson previously taught at Florida A&M University, and reported for the New York World-Telegram & Sun, Newsday, New York World Journal Tribune and the Associated Press.
He also served as editor Black Enterprise and Black Sports. Recently, he spent a professional summer on the copy desk of The Tampa Tribune.
He wrote Black War Correspondents’ Coverage of Korean War for the American Journalism Historians convention, for which he also served on the executive committee. “He’s a very interesting guy who loves to read, loves to teach, loves to share,” McKeen said. “He’s a lot of fun to be around, and we’re going to miss him.”