Calder M. Pickett

Calder Pickett, a lover of family, history and Jayhawks, died Tuesday, October 29, 2013, at Neuvant House of Lawrence. Memorial services will be at 2:30 p.m. Sunday, November 3, 2013, at Warren-McElwain Mortuary in Lawrence. Burial will follow at Pioneer Cemetery.

Calder taught journalism at the University of Kansas for 37 years. But he was much more than a teacher. He was a father, grandfather, author and editor. It’s difficult to capture his life in a few paragraphs, but here’s a try.

Calder brought enthusiasm and innovation into the classroom, never afraid to share his opinion about any topic. He used music and slides to enhance his lectures when few people knew the term “multimedia.”

He influenced students and non-students alike. Calder won several teaching awards, including the HOPE, which is voted on by the students. And he won awards outside the classroom, such as the George Foster Peabody Award in 1973 for “meritorious service to journalism” for his radio show “The American Past.”

Calder was born July 26, 1921, in Providence, Utah, the son of Lealand M. and Julia G. (Gessel) Pickett.

As a youth he was employed as a printer’s devil at Preston, Idaho. He received his bachelor’s degree from Utah State University in 1944. There he became a lifelong member of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. His received his master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in 1948, and his Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Minnesota in 1959.

After college he became a professor of journalism at Utah State University, the University of Denver, and the University of Kansas where he taught until retiring in 1988.

In 1962 while he was acting dean, the KU journalism school received the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award, which he received from President Kennedy in Washington, D.C. In 1969 while at KU he won the Mott-KTA award for best journalism research for his book “Ed Howe: Country Town Philosopher.” The other book he wrote was “Anthology of Journalism.” He was also the Clyde M. Reed Distinguished Professor of Journalism and received the Chancellor’s Club Career Teaching Award in addition to the HOPE. He was a radio broadcaster for 32 years for Kansas Public Radio and produced more than 1,500 hourlong episodes of “The American Past.”

Calder worked for various newspapers, including the Salt Lake Tribune, Kansas City Star, Kansas City Times, Topeka Capital Journal and the Lawrence Journal World. Calder was a book review editor for the Journalism Quarterly for 10 years. He also wrote book reviews for The Kansas City Star and Kansas City Times.

Calder was a member of the Lawrence Unitarian Fellowship and served as chairman, program director and Sunday school teacher. He participated in various bridge and dinner clubs, served on various boards at KU, the Lawrence Library board and volunteered for Audio Reader.

He was a season-ticket holder and great fan of the Jayhawks. Just two months ago he was upset that he couldn’t drive and therefore couldn’t go to Allen Fieldhouse this season.

Calder had a huge love of movies and had large book and movie hand bill collections. He did extensive travel through the United States, Europe, Australia and took a yearlong sabbatical in England. He enjoyed sharing slides from his travels.

He married Nola A. Agricola on March 20, 1947, in Ogden, Utah. She preceded him in death March 12, 2013.

Survivors include two daughters, Carolyn Zeligman, Overland Park, and Kathleen Jenson, Chicago; two grandchildren, Laura Zeligman, Chicago, and Daniel Zeligman, Los Angeles; one brother, Neal Pickett, Salt Lake City, Utah; and numerous nieces and nephews.

The family suggests memorials in his name to Audio Reader or KU School of Journalism and may be sent in care of the mortuary.

13 Condolences

  1. Bill Woodard on October 30, 2013 at 3:03 pm

    You were a demanding, funny, engaging, principled teacher and mentor to so many, Dr. Pickett, and a beloved member of the KU and Lawrence communities. As your late colleague Dr. Bremner used to intone, “Comma, peace, period,” and thank you for your patient and wise guidance.

  2. Norman W. Larson on October 30, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    Calder Pickett was indeed a treasure. I was on the William Allen White School of Journalism faculty for the 1967-68 academic year. I was part of the “Minnesota Mafia”. Calder Picket, Warren Agee (dean of the school) and Larry Day all had Ph.D.s from the University of Minnesota. I had a mere M.A.

  3. Dan Austin on October 31, 2013 at 7:09 am

    Calder Pickett was my teacher and my mentor throughout my career in journalism. He meant so much to so many, and will be missed by all.

  4. Joyce Evans on October 31, 2013 at 7:19 am

    I first met Dr. Pickett, while still in high school, at Journalism Camp at K.U. He was a wonderful mentor and a major influence on my decision to major in journalism at K.U. He was my School of Journalism advisor, and I made many trips to his “tower” office. He was, of course, an outstanding teacher, and I still remember one “History of American Journalism” class where he played Marvin Gaye singing, “I Heard it through the Grapevine.” I shared an intense love for Jayhawk basketball with him. Until we moved to Virginia in 1986, we had season basketball tickets very near Dr. Pickett and Nola. He stayed in touch with many of us, and, just last Christmas, I received one of his holiday letters, which I looked forward to over the years. I will remember his steadying guidance and twinkling good humor. I extend my sincere condolences to his family. Joyce Grist Evans, School of Journalism, 1968

  5. Rick Schwebel on October 31, 2013 at 10:32 am

    To the family : my sincere condolences. There is no greater pain than the death of a loved one. Sometimes it seems almost more than a person can bear. Jehovah God helps us with this in His word, He promises us that He will put a stop to all sickness and death will be no more (REV 21;3.4) Jehovah also shows His love for us through the ransom sacrifice of His beloved son Jesus Christ. What a wonderful gift to be given! Then the hope of seeing our loved ones again on this earth, transformed into a paradise. The Bible tells us this was Jehovah’s will when He created Adam & Eve. Please take your Bible and read: (Genesis 1:26,27; John 5: 28,29; Psalms 37:11,22,29). If you have any questions or comments, you can contact me at: Sincerely: Rick Ruiz Schwebel.

  6. Don C. Smith on October 31, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Dr. Calder Pickett was perhaps the single most influential professor I ever had. He was smart, witty, curious, exacting. To this day I love to read anything he wrote. In fact, despite having graduated from KU in 1976, I still think about him when I am writing. I often ask myself, “How would Dr. Pickett explain this idea?”

    His Christmas letters were wonderful, as he would relay news about friends and colleagues while also making his own observations about the world. He was a very special human being.

    I clearly remember where I sat in his “History of American Journalism” class. Class sessions were always informative and often entertaining. He had such a fine manner of imparting information while also reminding students of the critical role the press must play in open societies.

    In one respect, Dr. Pickett is no longer here. His physical presence is gone. But in another, he is very much here in the hundreds and thousands of individuals and students whose lives he touched.

    He was always interested in me and my life, and he encouraged me in many ways. Someone once told me that one learns at the knee, so to speak, of great men and women. For me he was one of the greatest men I ever met.

    Godspeed my friend Calder Pickett.

  7. Jacquelyn Thayer Scott on November 1, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Dr. Pickett had an incredible influence on my life, as a professional and as a person, from the time I first met him while I was editor of my high school newspaper in Ellsworth, Kansas. In many respects, he was like a father to me, and never hesitated to give me advice during my KU years, whether I was ready to hear it or not! His integrity was a beacon to me, as well as other students, and I looked forward to his annual Christmas letter for news not only of other students, but his own views on the state of the nation/society. When I won a National Newspaper Award in Canada, he organized a small display in the school’s atrium, although I was six hours short of my degree when I left KU. He gave me such encouragement and, in the early 1990s, when I was made President of a Canadian university, no one could have been prouder, even in my own family. More than once in my adult life, I have said to myself, “What would Calder think about this?” and it has proved to be a good discipline, and one that I will continue for my remaining years.

  8. Monte Mace on November 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Dr. Pickett was a rare educator. Even though he was a true intellectual, he made his lectures understandable, exciting and interesting. Beneath a crusty exterior, he had a warm, human side. As my thesis advisor, he guided me through a sometimes confusing process. He was a journalism school giant who touched countless lives and helped many students go on to meaningful careers.

  9. Donna Asher on November 4, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Calder Pickett was truly a beloved professor, and his class, History of American Journalism, though tough, was a wonderful course. Since my graduation from KU I have followed Professor Pickett’s career, listening to the American Past radio program and reading his column in the Lawrence Journal-World, always enjoying his special take on history, American culture, music, etc. Those of us who were fortunate to have had him as a professor had a much richer educational experience due to his contributions to the journalism school. Thank you, Professor Pickett. My sincere condolences to the family.

  10. Mike Shearer on November 14, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    Dr. P taught me in the turbulent years 1966-70, and we sparred with great affection. He was opinionated but tolerant, wise but humble, nurturing but challenging, a great inspiration to me in more ways than he ever knew. I learned from him what Walt Whitman meant when he said, “Be radical! Be radical! Be not too damned radical!”

  11. Norma Parker Wilson on January 1, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Carolyn and Kathy, I just learned today from Dave Dary that both of your parents had died this year. You and they have been in my thoughts much of this New Year’s Day. Your folks were so warm and good to me and my young family when I was at KU in the ’70s working on my master’s and doctorate and teaching on the journalism faculty in the process. Your dad was an inspiring teacher and mentor helping me a great deal as a new TA teaching reporting courses. And I remember writing on his essay exams till I thought my hand would fall off. He and your mom were good to include me in dinner parties and slide shows of their many world travels. It was always an entertaining and informative evening. And your mom told me it was perfectly okay to pick the mushrooms out of the casserole. My day has been filled with so many fond memories of them. I hope your own such memories help sustain you. I hope, too, that you and your families are all doing well. Calder always included notes about your progress with the famous Christmas letter, a tradition I was saddened to see go. Peace and blessings, Norma Wilson

  12. Eddina Symns on March 2, 2014 at 7:55 pm

    Calder Pickett…………Wonderful man; wonderful, superb teacher.

    He was my neighbor, and grew some corn in his backyard one year. That was ‘way back in the early ’60s.

    I had a young German Shepherd pup, and one day when it got out, I was trying to find it. I saw what I thought was the pup,
    running around in Pickett’s corn, and I tackled it.

    It turned out to be Calder Pickett!

    He was very surprised……….but very nice about it.

    I know you’ve suffered a great loss.
    Isn’t it nice, though, that such good memories exist and that he lived for so many years?

  13. Peggy Ann Brown on March 19, 2014 at 12:35 pm

    Professor Pickett was a wonderful and inspiring professor. His approach to teaching made me pay attention to the facts and understand the background of events. As a historian, I still look at the notes I took in his class and value the insights he shared and the perspectives he taught us to seek out.

    My condolences to the family. Your father was a pillar of the Journalism School.

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