March 16, 2015
Former Texas Tech University journalism instructor Robert Wernsman died Sunday (March 15) in Lubbock. He had recently retired from teaching in January, and a tribute video can be seen here.
Funeral service for Wernsman will be at 3 p.m. Tuesday (March 17) at Lake Ridge Chapel & Memorial Designers, 6025 82nd St. in Lubbock. In addition, the College of Media & Communication will host a memorial ceremony at 5:30 p.m. Thursday (March 26) in Room 281 of the Media & Communication building, 3003 15th St.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to a scholarship being established at Texas Tech in Wernsman's name.
Wernsman was born on Oct. 9, 1952, the son of Robert and Lola Wernsman of Prague, Nebraska. He earned his bachelor's degree from Peru State College in Nebraska and his master's from Northern Arizona University.
He began his teaching career at Texas Tech University after spending 20 years in the newspaper business, including editing positions at the Hunstville Item and the Big Spring Herald.
Wernsman originally came to Lubbock in 1994 to pursue a doctorate in theatre management and acting/directing. He was able to teach journalism courses in what was then the School of Mass Communications while studying theatre.
He later decided teaching was his calling, and he stopped pursuing his doctorate to focus on educating future generations of journalists. Some colleagues and former students would say, however, that he gave a performance in the classroom each and every day, so he did not leave that passion far behind.
Mary Ann Edwards, an adjunct instructor in the College of Media & Communication and owner of Word Publications in Lubbock, taught news writing with Wernsman since 2005.
"Robert was passionate about life and especially about conveying the basics of communications and principles to his students," she said. "He was a master communicator. He was an amazing person to teach with. I am a better teacher and a better person for having known and taught with Robert Wernsman."
Cam Stone, assistant professor of practice in the College of Media & Communication, said Wernsman had the best interests of students in everything he did.
"He was rigorous and tough, but it was for good reason," Stone said. "When students successfully completed one of his courses, they knew they had learned a great deal from him and felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment due to the way he conducted his classes."
Stone also said Wernsman's passion for the truth and position on ethics in the journalism profession were unequivocally known.
Aleesa Ross, director of the Center for Student Success, Outreach & Engagement in the College of Media & Communication, was a former student and teaching partner of Wernsman's.
"Without a doubt, he was one of the best instructors on campus," Ross said. "You could tell by the way he shared information in class that he believed in the lesson he was teaching students, and he delivered it in such a memorable way, time and time again. He cared deeply about students coming away from his classes as critical thinkers and strong writers."
Emily Jones McCoy, a 1998 broadcast journalism graduate and the Texas Rangers' dugout reporter who lives in Fort Worth, said there was no greater or more positive influence during her time at Texas Tech than Wernsman.
"His desire to teach and unrelenting ability to get the most out of his students are qualities I always admired and have tried to emulate in my own career," McCoy said. "I am forever grateful for his impact on my life."
Jerry Hudson, founding dean of the College of Media & Communication, said countless students attribute their career success to Wernsman.
"He spent many hours each week grading papers, meeting with students individually, and preparing for lectures," Hudson said. "His greatest reward came when students told him they got a job because he taught them good writing skills."
The journalism instructor was known for being a tough, yet fair professor who had great expectations of his students.
Nate Winslow, a 2005 journalism graduate and the assistant program director at KJKK 100.3 FM in Dallas, credits Wernsman for pushing him to be a better student, and, now, a better professional.
"Mr. Wernsman, he was tough. He was demanding and, yeah, a bit scary. I'll admit, at the time I took his class, I was not the best student," Winslow said. "With him being an exceptional educator, that was a volatile mix. However, he is one of the main reasons I am proud to say I am a Texas Tech graduate."
Winslow said Wernsman's impact far exceeds the few hours a week he spent in his classroom.
"I think I can speak for the majority of people who took his class," Winslow said, "that we will never look at the AP Stylebook the same way again."
Megan Clark Dillingham, a 1997 journalism graduate and former University Daily editor who now works as the communications and advancement manager at The Parish School in Houston, said Wernsman was a champion of student journalism.
"The difference he made in students' lives leaves a significant tradition of excellence in the industry and beyond," she said.
David Perlmutter, Ph.D. and dean of the College of Media & Communication, said Wernsman was an institution within the college and Texas Tech.
"I have met hundreds of alumni who spontaneously told me they are better writers and thinkers because of taking a class with professor Wernsman," Perlmutter said.