Long-time chair of the University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Communication Studies, William (Bill) John Seiler, 80, of Lincoln, died Feb. 19.
Seiler was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1942 and grew up in Shorewood, Wisconsin. Seiler received his bachelor’s from the University of Wisconsin, Whitewater in 1965; his master’s from Kansas State University in 1967; and a doctorate in Communication from Purdue University in 1971.
At Whitewater, he met the love of his life Kathi, his wife of 56 years. They were married on August 6, 1966. He felt blessed to have met Kathi, his true love. She took care of him through various kinds of illnesses, open heart surgery, four strokes, and cancer. She was the one person who guided him through so many different journeys in life.
Seiler taught at Purdue from 1970-71 and joined the University of Nebraska–Lincoln faculty in 1972. He was a professor in the Department of Communication Studies for 48 years and served as department chair for 21 years.
During his time as chair, he was a staunch faculty advocate. Shortly after stepping into the chair role, Seiler helped ensure that the department survived budget cuts in the early 1990s, marshaling the support of communication scholars across the country and members of the Nebraska community to argue for the value and excellence of communication studies. Because of his leadership, colleagues across campus and the country reached out to him for guidance when they faced similar struggles. The department not only survived, but went on to thrive. Seiler was incredibly proud of the fact that he had hired almost every member of the faculty before he retired in 2020.
“To say that Bill was an important figure in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln is a tremendous understatement,” Jody Koenig Kellas, chair and Willa Cather Professor in the department, wrote to her colleagues following Seiler’s death. “Most of the people reading this email do not remember a time that Bill was not present, engaged, dedicated and supportive of the department and its students, faculty and staff.”
He received many honors throughout his career: an Undergraduate Leadership Award, Outstanding Educator of America, Outstanding University and College Teacher by Nebraska Communication Association, Outstanding Young Alumni and Distinguish Alumni Awards from the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater and 2002 Boss of the Year Award. He also received the 2013 National Communication Association Basic Course Division Distinguished Faculty Award and was named to the 2013 Central States Association’s Hall of Fame. In 2015, he received the National Communication’s Wallace A. Bacon Lifetime Teaching Excellence Award, and in 2017 he received the Robert J. Kibler Memorial Award for Outstanding Service. He authored many journal articles and scholarly book chapters and was lead author of three college textbooks.
Seiler enjoyed playing softball, golfing with his friends, and traveling both domestically and internationally with his wife, family and friends. He was extremely proud of his daughters, Dana and Dionne, and loved spending time with them, his sons-in-law and his grandchildren. He enjoyed theater, 50’s music, his students and the Huskers.
He is survived by his wife Kathi, daughters Dana (Lee), Dionne (Wade), and grandchildren Grant and Will Hunsaker, Zach (Abi) Nutt, Taylor Nutt, and Stephanie (Dat) Do. He is also survived by sister Joyce (Charlie) Kunda and nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his mother, Frances, and father, William C. Seiler.
Visitation will be held from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Feb. 26. The family will be present beginning at 4 p.m., with a rosary at 6:30 p.m. at Butherus, Maser and Love Funeral Home, 4040 A St. Lincoln. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10:30 a.m. Feb. 27, with a luncheon to follow at St. Joseph Catholic Church, 1940 S. 77th St. Lincoln. Burial to follow the luncheon at Calvary Cemetery.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to St. Joseph Catholic Church, Pius X Foundation, 6000 A Street Lincoln NE 68510, or to the Bill and Kathi Seiler Undergraduate Scholarship via the University of Nebraska Foundation, 1010 Lincoln Mall, Suite 300, Lincoln NE 68508.