Obituary for Edwin A. Hollatz, Jr. (Submitted by Kenneth R. Chase)

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Obituary for Edwin A. Hollatz, Jr.

We are saddened to report the passing of Edwin Hollatz, Ph.D., admired and influential professor of Communication at Wheaton College (IL) from 1955-2000. He died Saturday, Dec 2, 2023, at the age of 93. He received his Ph.D. in Speech from Northwestern University (1965) and an A. M. from Northwestern in Radio-TV (1955). His received an undergraduate degree from Bob Jones University (1952).

Ed Hollatz was a giant in communication studies at Wheaton with a legacy stretching nationally through distinguished coaching in intercollegiate forensics and as a co-founder of the Religious Communication Association. He was known on campus for his influential classes in public speaking and debate, through which he equipped generations of students with the confidence and skills to achieve professional success in law, ministry, and public life. He began coaching junior varsity intercollegiate debate in his first year at Wheaton (1955) and was appointed to lead the program in 1964. During his thirty years with Wheaton’s debate and forensics squad, Ed coached national champions in individual events, a national champion in CEDA debate, and a national team sweepstakes title. In honor of this legacy, Wheaton annually hosts the “Hollatz Debates,” attracting collegiate teams from across the country each fall to compete in British Parliamentary debate.

As one of Wheaton’s twentieth-century faculty visionaries, Ed advanced an expansive role for communication studies within the institution. He pushed for an emphasis in media communication by working with students to convert the campus radio announcement system into an FCC-licensed radio station (WETN) permitted to broadcast beyond the campus and into the neighboring communities. Ed also taught Wheaton’s first dramatic arts class in 1958 and, in 1966, staged Macbeth as Wheaton’s first theater production. The popularity of subsequent productions and acting classes, developed both by Ed and his department colleague, Eleanor Paulsen, Ph.D., led to Wheaton hiring a full-time theater faculty and the founding of Arena Theater in 1973, which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year.

Ed chaired the Communication Department from 1966-1986 and under his leadership the program expanded to include, in addition to theater, speech and hearing science, interpersonal communication, and media studies. Although curricula continue to shift over the decades, Ed’s strategic oversight laid the groundwork for the vitality of today’s department, featuring eight full-time faculty, 150 undergraduate majors in four concentrations, continuing success in intercollegiate debate, a thriving theater program, and a pre-professional certificate in journalism. Wheaton’s Communication alumni and current faculty have been deeply influenced by Ed’s committed leadership, energetic vision, and unwavering belief that we are created in the image of God and wondrously gifted with the capacity to speak good news through the full range of communication media and through the power of the voice.

The full obituary for Ed Hollatz is available at: This website also includes information about the memorial service to be held Jan 22, 2024, 1 pm (CST), at First Presbyterian Church of Wheaton. Ed’s professional colleagues are warmly invited to attend or to view the livestream.

Submitted by

Kenneth R. Chase

Communication Department

Wheaton College, IL

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