Remembering Robert Shuter, ASU research professor

Robert Shuter, an intercultural communication scholar at Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and professor emeritus at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University died May 4, in Chicago, after a two-and-a-half-year struggle with brain cancer. He was 74.

He served as a visiting professor at ASU in spring semester 2014 and as a research professor during spring semesters 2015 through 2018.

Hugh Downs School Professor Pauline Cheong was instrumental in bringing Shuter to ASU and was involved with his Center for Intercultural New Media Research.

“Bob Shuter will be remembered fondly as a pioneer in the field of new media and intercultural communication,” Cheong said.

“He was a leader of many forums and publications, inspiring faculty and students in the school and abroad, to research the cultural implications of our latest digital and social media. He championed the importance of cultural context and values in shaping technological adoptions and innovations, as well as digital distractions! His wit, his energy and generosity of spirit are dearly missed.”

ASU Professor Benjamin Broome, also an intercultural communication scholar, remembers Shuter as a close colleague and friend. 

“He was a major influence in the development of the field of intercultural communication," Broome said. "He was always challenging us and pushing the envelope. We will miss him greatly.”

Born in 1946 in New York, Shuter received a Bachelor of Science degree in communication from Loyola University Chicago in 1969. He earned his master's and doctoral degrees in communication from Northwestern University in 1971 and 1973. After completing his doctorate, he began his long professorial career at Marquette University. 

Shuter taught at the Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University for 41 years. He became chairperson of the Department of Communication Studies after just one year, a position he held for a total of 29 years between 1974 and 1980 and again between 1987 and 2010. He helped bolster the department's reputation in several ways, including recruiting outstanding scholars, improving the curriculum and expanding the graduate program. 

His Marquette colleague Lynn Turner credits him for “the very existence of the communication studies program.” 

Shuter also taught a wide variety of highly popular courses at Marquette which, according to Steve Goldzwig, “challenged his students to learn deeply,” as well as improve “their understanding, empathy and care for others.” 

Several faculty members in the Hugh Downs School have fond remembrances of Shuter:

Rob was a well-known intercultural communication scholar who had a great sense of humor. I have wholeheartedly enjoyed our conversations about intercultural communication and global issues. He was welcoming different points of view, willing to learn about different points of view, and showing respect to diverse cultural values and practices. He will be greatly missed. My prayers and condolences go to his family. — Associate Professor YoungJu Shin

Bob was such a generous, caring colleague. He was a blessing in so many of our lives. He gave generously of his time and knowledge, sharing his expertise and human kindness graciously. He is a model of the teacher/mentor/colleague. I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to work with him for the last six or seven years of his professional life. And Bob was a dear and caring friend. — Professor Linda C. Lederman

I so appreciated him — both as an important intercultural scholar and mentor and as a good friend. I know our grad students appreciated his courses and his mentoring and he was such an active contributor to the school — even as a part-time member. He will be so missed. — Professor Emeritus Judith Martin

I vividly remember when Dr. Shuter guest lectured for our PhD intercultural communication class. His overview of the field of intercultural communication was extensive, yet the most memorable part of our time together was his passion for teaching and researching culture and communication. His effort to evolve and ask new questions was inspiring for an aspiring scholar. — Faculty Associate Robert Razzante

What I remember most about Rob is his laser focus. Whenever I talked with him, no matter the topic, it always seemed like I was the most important person in the world. He would listen deeply and make suggestions that were compelling and important. I miss him greatly. — Professor and Interim Director Paul Mongeau

I remember Rob fondly as the spring awaited his arrival to the desert of Phoenix, Arizona, in early spring semesters and his departure back to the Midwest just as summer was heating up in the desert! We became acquainted with topics of intercultural communication and music. Rob was an avid jazz buff who loved the sultry sounds and mixed genres of jazz, blues and R&B, demonstrated in the bands of Wynton Marsalis and Marcus Miller, and duets of Renee Fleming and Kurt Elling. We had planned to attend a jazz concert with our spouses at the MIM, the Musical Instrument Museum in Scottsdale. We spoke of the history of jazz, the beauty of vocal acumen and the impact of such music on the country and the world. We spoke of my visit to Israel and of the cultural heritage of Ethiopian Jews in navigating the rhetorical dynamics of race, culture and discrimination. Rob was always there to lend a gentle word, as when my mother passed away — he shared stories to soothe my soul. I won’t soon forget his distinctive voice in the hallways of Stauffer Hall when he’d salute me with, “There she is! Hey, Olga! How’s it going today?” I’ve missed that voice for a while now. But I won’t forget the smile, the warmth, the laughter and the good conversation that remain in my memories of Rob. Peace, be still, Rob. As is said in the African American spiritual tradition: See you in that ‘Great Gettin’ Up’ morning. — Professor Olga Idriss Davis 

To read more about Shuter’s career, visit his Wikipedia page.

Catherine Sebold
csebold@asu.edu