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UNC Hussman Professor Emeritus Michael Hoefges dies at 61

“He cared deeply about his students and it showed in all of his interactions.”


Michael Hoefges, associate professor at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, has died at 61. Photo courtesy of Victoria Ekstrand.

Even when he was undergoing cancer treatments, associate professor emeritus Michael Hoefges never missed an opportunity to be in the classroom and teach students about the intricacies of media law.

Dean Susan King of the Hussman School of Journalism and Media said that he would schedule treatments for Friday afternoons so that he could recover over the weekend and not miss a minute of class time. 

“His desire to stay in the classroom was astounding,” King said. “He wouldn’t miss a class.”

After a prolific and impactful career at the UNC Hussman School of Journalism and Media, Hoefges died on March 9 at age 61.

Hoefges was born in Atlanta in 1960 and attended the University of Florida, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as a J.D. and Ph.D. After practicing as a defense attorney in civil litigation for several years, he began his teaching career at Trinity University, eventually moving to the University of Tennessee and then to UNC.

In his research and writing, he focused on the application of free speech in advertising.

Hoefges helped to create UNC’s J.D./Ph.D. dual degree program, allowing graduate students to work within the law and journalism schools to pursue a J.D. and Ph.D. in media law. 

“Dr. Hoefges was the heart and soul behind our enormously successful media law dual degree program that linked the law school and the journalism school,” David Ardia, associate professor of law, said. “He cared deeply about his students and it showed in all of his interactions.” 

Hoefges also served as a panelist with the National Advertising Review Board from 2007 to 2019.

Along with being an expert on the subject of commercial speech and a terrific mentor, Hoefges was a good and kindhearted person, associate professor Tori Ekstrand said.

“He always asked about my family,” Ekstrand said. “I would see him in the hallway and that would be the first discussion. Not ‘Do you have that thing ready for that meeting tomorrow?’ I appreciated that in him.”

Ashley Fox, a student in the dual degree program started by Hoefges, said that he was an instrumental figure in her academic career.

“I took Dr. Hoefges’ media law course as a junior at UNC,” Fox said “He made it really interesting. I found out about the dual degree program through him and through that class, and decided to apply.”

Zach Gorelick, another student of the dual degree program, said that as an adviser Hoefges was a kind mentor and one of the most professional people he had ever met.

“If he had not gone to bat for me so consistently and had he not really made it a point to help me when I was struggling, I don’t think I would be in the program right now,” Gorelick said. “He is really the reason why I am going to be graduating from the dual degree program.”

Kriste Patrow, who worked with Hoefges as a graduate assistant for several years, remembers him as an incredibly humble and kind man. 

“The most unkind thing I heard him say was when he felt I had not been quite treated properly at a conference, he just said ‘Well I think that’s really unfair,’” Patrow said. “He was just a class act.”

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