Chair of Winthrop University Department of Mass Communication hangs up saddle after 27 years

Dr. William Click
Dr. William Click sits in his Johnson Hall office. • Photo courtesy of Department of Mass Communication

The first year Bill Click was at Winthrop, he was already making changes.

“The first year I was here, which was 1987-88 I put in a request for $25,000 for new computers for the typing lab,” Click said.

When he arrived at Winthrop, the typing lab had just gotten new typewriters.

“I got a call from the dean and they could only give me half that. We got 11 computers so that the lab had four typewriters,” Click said.

Click has been head of the Department of Mass Communication for 27 years. The history of the department is closely tied to Click. He and his faculty in the department have transformed it into what it is today.

Haney Howell, a retired professor of broadcast at Winthrop, began the tale of the department. Howell said that before it was the Department of Mass Communication, it was called the Department of Communication, and consisted of journalism, speech and music.

Everything was crammed together with no particular focus.

A year after Howell came to Winthrop, “We spun off into mass communication, and that was the beginning of the department right there,” Howell said.

Larry Timbs, professor emeritus of journalism, said Click deserved much of the credit for putting the Department of Mass Communication on the national map.

“He was steady at the helm, a man of high integrity, and he was always a workaholic. He put his energy and focus into shaping the department and making it as good as can be,” Timbs said.

After Click’s initial year at Winthrop, the school was granted $3.5 million to help renovate Johnson Hall. It took two years for the renovations to be completed.

When speech split off from the Department of Communication, the name needed to be updated.

“I never liked that name [communication]. It was vague and you can teach anything you want to under that name. We had to choose either journalism or mass communication. I thought we probably better call it mass communication, because we didn’t know what else was coming,” Click said.

Soon after Click was instated as department head, the department began the process of getting accredited.

When asked how long it would take, he responded, “Five to seven years of hard work.”

In actuality, it took nine years to get the department accredited.

Click knew how to get the department accredited because he had been elected onto the accreditation council for nine years running.

Not only did Click help to accredit the department, but he also helped put it on the national map. He and many other members of the faculty helped to establish connections with many media organizations.

“He and I, in the first two or three years, did a lot of traveling together talking to radio stations and TV stations, and letting them know there was another school in the state,” Howell said.

For 27 years, Click has worked hard in the department, but now he is facing retirement.

After he retires, Click plans to continue teaching ethics and issues in mass communication for the next two or three years at Winthrop.

“I’ll just take it one day and one semester at a time,” Click said.

His favorite class to teach is MCOM 241 “because that’s the one course where students seem to make the most progress. You can see it visually from the beginning of the semester to the end. They either get better or they fail,” Click said.

In his classes, Click tries to instill three values in his students: integrity, honesty and truthfulness.

“I would rather someone tell me they screwed up than cover it up and hide it. In the long run, those things [integrity, honesty, truthfulness] pay off,” Click said.

Even without Click as the department chair, the Department of Mass Communication will still be undergoing reaccreditation next fall.


Outstanding Achievements

• Magazine Educator of the year in 1999

• National Chapter Advisor of the Year for Kappa Tau Alpha Honor Society in 2004

• He was inducted into the Central Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in October of 2005.

• In 2006, he was recognized as the honors lecturer in the Scholastic Journalism Division for the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.

Frances Parrish

Frances served as a staff writer, Science & Tech Editor, copy editor and Editor-in-Chief of The Johnsonian from Fall 2012-Spring 2014. Frances graduated from Winthrop University in Spring 2015.

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