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CSCA Mourns the passing of Dr. Phyllis Japp

RE: Dr. Phyllis Japp

It is with great sadness that we inform the membership of the passing of Dr. Phyllis Japp from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Her obituary is detailed below.

She was a strong CSCA supporter, leader, mentor and friend to many of us and we will miss her.

From Dr. Debra Japp, St. Cloud State University ( on behalf of her family: 

Phyllis Japp died on Monday, December 2, in St. Cloud, MN, following a sudden illness. She was surrounded by her family.  Dr. Japp, or Phyllis, as she was lovingly called by both her colleagues and students, was a mentor, teacher, and scholar who retired recently from the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL). Phyllis earned her BA (German) and MA (American History) from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and her PhD (Communication Studies) in 1986 from UNL. She was hired by her alma mater, where she served as an assistant and associate professor, and director of graduate studies.  Her scholarship focused on discourse related to health, healing, and the environment, and on communication ethics and rhetorical and feminist cultural theory. Phyllis collaborated on a number of books and published chapters and critical essays in several scholarly anthologies and journals. She received the Central States Communication Association’s Outstanding Teacher Award and Distinguished Book Awards from both the Health Communication and Applied Communication Divisions of the National Communication Association.

Phyllis believed her students were her most significant contributions to the discipline. She encouraged excellence from them and was supportive and proud of their achievements. Her students, in turn, admired her intellect, wit, and professionalism. Phyllis embodied the virtues of a scholarly life. She believed that teaching well and writing well were profound obligations. She valued intellectual diversity and advised her students to “not hurry,” “read good stuff,” and to “think before you write.” She was beloved for her capacity to create safe conversational spaces for students and simultaneously to push them beyond their comfort zones.  Her professional legacy will be former students who continue to take risks, challenge established ideas, pose socially relevant questions, and pursue thoughtful answers.

While a faculty member at UNL, Phyllis’s students and colleagues would often find her at The Mill, a coffee house in Lincoln.  Phyllis loved conversation so she gladly postponed her reading and writing to listen and to chat, usually in that order. She listened respectfully, and when she did speak her insights were tempered with humility and humor.  She preferred the thought-provoking question to the statement of her own opinion.

Phyllis is survived by her husband, Lyle, two children--Debra of St. Cloud, MN, and John (Janet) of Knoxville, TN--two grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and five siblings. She adored her family and spent much of her last two years collaborating professionally with Debra, a Professor in the Department of Communication Studies at St. Cloud State University. Phyllis and Debra co-authored several scholarly works and shared a wonderful mother-daughter-colleague-best friend relationship. Her family and friends will remember her for her love of reading, joy of learning, and an appreciation of nature. She lived a life of integrity, quiet dignity, and deep faith. We miss her, but are better for having had her in our lives.

Those who wish to honor Phyllis may do so by donating to the “Phyllis Japp Scholars Fund” at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which supports student research. Donations may be made at, or by check to the NU Foundation at 1010 Lincoln Mall, Lincoln NE 68508. Indicate “Phyllis Japp fund” on the memo line. For assistance, contact Victor Martinez at 402-458-1185.