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Tuesday, April 11, 2000

John Luter,
former chairman of UH
journalism, dies

Under his leadership, the program
became an independent department
and nationally accredited


By Suzanne Tswei


John Luter, who headed journalism studies at the University of Hawaii for nearly 20 years, died Saturday in San Antonio, Texas. He was 81.

Under Luter's leadership, the study of journalism, once a program under the Department of English, became an independent and nationally accredited department.

He expanded it to include not only print journalism, but also broadcast journalism, public relations, a national ethics program through the Carol Burnett Fund for Responsible Journalism and the Parvin/Freedom Forum Journalism Studies Fellowship Program that trains journalists from China.

"He brought national status and national parity" to the department, said Tom Brislin, journalism department chairman. "You can trace all of the innovations in journalism education in Hawaii directly to Luter."

Sharon Ishida, who was Luter's secretary through his Hawaii tenure, described him as "a top-notch administrator" and "an excellent writer" who had good ideas and knew how to transform them into reality.

Born in Tennessee, Luter grew up in San Antonio and planned for a career in law. He received his bachelor's degree in economics from St. Mary's University in Texas and studied law at St. Mary's College of Law.

But shortly before a scheduled bar exam, he left to work as a reporter at the now-defunct Washington Star in Washington, D.C.

His journalism career included covering World War II in the Pacific and writing for broadcast legend Eric Sevareid at CBS News.

He worked for Newsweek, Time and Life magazines and served as a foreign correspondent in Israel, Italy, Hong Kong, Japan and Southeast Asia.

Luter moved to Hawaii to become director of the journalism program in 1974 after spending 13 years as an administrator and a faculty member at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.

He continued as chairman of the journalism department until 1992, and retired the following year.

Luter is survived by daughter Penny Ashworth of New York. His wife, Nan, died two years ago.

Memorial services will be held 3 p.m. April 28 at the university's journalism department office in Crawford Hall. Mainland services are pending.

A fund in his memory will be set up to benefit journalism students. Make checks payable to University of Hawaii Foundation, and mail them to Sharon Ishida, Department of Journalism, University of Hawaii, Crawford Hall Room 103, 2550 Campus Road, Honolulu 96822-2217.

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