Richard Wiseman

CSUF 'Outstanding Professor' Wiseman Dies

“Watching Rich teach a class was like watching Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen or Tiger Woods on the golf course.”

November 29, 2006

Richard Wiseman, Cal State Fullerton’s 2003-04 Outstanding Professor Award honoree, has died following a long illness. He was 54.

The professor of human communication studies had been on medical leave this fall and residing in Oregon’s rural Linn County, near Corvallis, where he died on Thanksgiving.

He had been hospitalized and awaiting a liver transplant, having contracted hepatitis C from a blood transfusion. A longtime Yorba Linda resident, Wiseman and his family relocated earlier this year to the state where his wife was born and he had attended graduate school, at the University of Oregon. Years later, the two met while teaching at Cal State Fullerton.

“Dr. Wiseman’s gift for teaching and working collaboratively with students typified what we hope all our professors bring to their classrooms — commitment and dedication to the highest levels of education,” said President Milton A. Gordon. “His death is not only a tragic loss for his family, but for our university. He will be sorely missed.”

In addition to being selected for the university’s top faculty honor, Wiseman also received the 2005 California State University Wang Family Excellence Award, which recognizes outstanding achievements of faculty members and administrators in the 23-campus CSU.

As a scholar, Wiseman specialized in intercultural, interpersonal and nonverbal communication, as well as persuasion and research methodology. He authored nine books, was awarded more than 25 grants for his research efforts and was a founding fellow of the International Academy for Intercultural Research.

Wiseman, who received a variety of campus honors for teaching, scholarship and service, was lauded by faculty members and students alike. In teaching evaluations, his average mean score was 3.85 out of 4.

“Watching Rich teach a class was like watching Wolfgang Puck in the kitchen or Tiger Woods on the golf course,” said professor Robert Gass about his longtime friend and colleague.  “‘Take Wiseman!’ was a familiar refrain heard among students,” he added. “Rich was sort of like our department version of the Crocodile Hunter. Rich was energetic and full of life. His enthusiasm was contagious, and he made people feel good about themselves. He was a one-of-a-kind individual.”
Wiseman was known for seeking students’ involvement in his classes and often worked closely with students, who co-authored dozens of publications and conference papers with him. This provided many with their first journal or conference submissions.           

“I believe that the most important factor in students’ classroom learning is to involve them in its content,” he said in a 2004 interview. “If students get involved with the material, then the learning will be long-lasting and have a greater potential to make a difference in how students apply that knowledge.”

Wiseman began teaching at Cal State Fullerton in 1978, after earning his doctorate in speech communication at the University of Minnesota.             

One of the elements the professor encouraged among his fellow faculty members was immediacy. “For instance, how do they demonstrate warmth and closeness?” he asked. “Immediacy is closely correlated with student satisfaction and learning. Through guided practice, faculty members can learn how to enhance their skills in this area.”

Recognized in 2004 as the third most prolific scholar in the area of intercultural communication, Wiseman published, on average, at least two scholarly and three conference papers each year. Over the course of 25 years, he authored 58 journal articles or book chapters. In addition, he frequently was cited as an expert source in journal articles. He had served as editor of International and Intercultural Communication Annual and as guest editor of Intercultural Communication Studies (Winter 2004).

“The many honors Rich Wiseman received for his teaching and scholarship tells the entire story about his outstanding career,” said Rick Pullen, dean of the College of Communications. “He exemplifies all the qualities of an excellent professor. His loss is huge for the department and university."

Beyond the Outstanding Professor Award, his campus honors included: being chosen for the CSUF Teacher/Scholar in Residence Program (2003), being recognized for Outstanding Service to CSUF Students and Student Leadership (1997-98), Outstanding Service to Cal State Fullerton (1997) and Outstanding Faculty Scholar (1995). In addition, he served as faculty marshal at commencement for the College of Communications in 1994, 1997, 1998 and 2003. In 2004, he was the university’s faculty marshal at commencement.

In the community, Wiseman volunteered for a number of organizations, including the Girl and Boy Scouts of America, American Youth Soccer Organization and Placentia Cultural Arts Commission. Wiseman was a former Placentia resident.

Wiseman is survived by his wife, Judi Sanders, who retired in May from the faculty at Cal Poly Pomona; a son, Michael, 20, now studying philosophy at Oregon State University after transferring from CSUF; twin daughters, Michele and Nicole, 17, seniors at Crescent Valley High in Corvallis; his mother, Loraine, of Wichita, Kansas; father, Ivan, and sister, Karen Dziak, both of Elizabethton, Tennessee.  

A campus memorial service is being planned for February, and a scholarship fund is being established in his name. Donations may be made to the CSUF Philanthropic Foundation for the Richard Wiseman Memorial Scholarship Fund and sent to Annette Bow, Department of Human Communication Studies, Cal State Fullerton, CP-420-1, P.O. Box 6868, Fullerton, CA 93834-6868.


Richard Wiseman
Richard WIseman