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Trailblazer UNC professor Carol Reuss dies at 86

carol reuss
Carol Reuss with former student, Rhonda Beatty. Contributed by Beatty.

Carol Reuss wanted nothing more than to distribute newspapers when she was in grade school. 

But that’s just not what girls did. At least, that's what the Cleveland newspapers told her. 

Reuss didn’t let that stop her. Instead, she decided to sell local papers to people in her hometown of Woodcliff, Ohio. 

And so it began – Reuss, carving her own career and pioneering her way into places where women were few and far between, two themes that carried on until the end of her life. 

Reuss, a UNC School of Media and Journalism Professor Emeritus, died on Dec. 31, 2018 at 86 years old.

Reuss' career was filled with accomplishments, including serving as a professor and associate provost at UNC. She was inducted to the N.C. Media and Journalism Hall of Fame in 1996. But for those who knew Reuss, she was more than the sum of her accomplishments.

“She certainly was a trailblazer for women faculty,” said Tom Bowers, former senior associate dean of the MJ-School. “She just quietly, in her own example, did things and sort of quietly convinced people that women should play a bigger role on the faculty and in the university.”

As one of the first four women in the MJ-School’s faculty, Reuss started and grew the public relations program, which also includes advertising, making it the program with the most students in the MJ-School today.

Her work for women stretched beyond the MJ-School as she helped found the Association for Women Faculty and Professionals and the BRIDGES program for women’s academic leadership. But Reuss’ career was about more than forging new paths — it touched the individual lives of her students.

“I would say that I am the communicator that I am today because she was the professor she was,” said Rhonda Beatty, the director of the UNC Visitors Center and a former student of Reuss.

Beatty said Reuss was her professor, mentor and friend who taught her a love for her profession and a sense of leadership. 

“You weren't just a student, and you weren't just taking a class, and she wasn't just grading your papers, but she was really guiding you as an adult into who you would be ultimately as a communicator, and she took great pride in that,” Beatty said.

Jan Yopp, journalism professor and dean of the UNC Summer School, was also one of the first four women in the MJ-School faculty with Reuss. In addition to Reuss' professional life, Yopp said she was a very giving person.

“Even when she retired and went into assisted living in smaller quarters, Carol gave out furniture right and left to the people who needed furniture," Yopp said.

Reuss was respected personally and professionally. Yopp said her professional reputation was national.

“Carol, as much as she did in the public eye on campus, she was private,” Yopp said. “If you listed all these things that she did, she would probably just look at you and give this kind of little, small smile and say, ‘Well, that's just what you did.'”


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