George T. Crutchfield, Retired Director of the School of Mass Communications, Dies at Age 77

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George T. Crutchfield, retired director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Mass Communications and founder of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, died Tuesday, March 15, from congestive heart failure and its complications. He was 77.

Many of his friends and colleagues at VCU were notified of his passing yesterday evening in an e-mail from Judy VanSlyke Turk, Ph.D., a professor in the School of Mass Communications.

“George was, as many of you know, a legend in his own time,” Turk wrote. “He was passionate about journalism, about Scouting and about VCU’s School of Mass Communications.”

Crutchfield became chair of VCU’s Department of Journalism in 1970. Eight years later, when the department expanded its focus from print journalism to all forms of journalism, advertising and public relations, Crutchfield became the first director of the new School of Mass Communications. He continued in that role until 1989 and retired as a professor 10 years later.

“The School of Mass Communications at VCU is essentially the creation of George Crutchfield,” said Terry Oggel, Ph.D., interim director of the School of Mass Communications. “Though he stepped down as director several years ago, much of the prominence in the world of media that it now enjoys is owing to George's vision a quarter of a century ago.”

Crutchfield established VCU’s chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha, a national honor society that recognizes academic excellence in journalism and mass communications, soon after becoming director, and it was renamed the George Crutchfield Chapter in his honor upon retirement. He served as national president of Kappa Tau Alpha from 1986 until 1988.

Crutchfield also founded the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame, created to recognize excellence in journalism and communications, and was inducted as a member in 1990. In 2009, he received the Virginia Press Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award.  

He also received the Richmond Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists George Mason Award for Contributions to Press Freedom in 1982. The Virginia High School League presented him with the Thomas Jefferson Award and a Leadership Award for his support of scholastic journalism.

Crutchfield’s passion for newspaper reporting began at an early age. In high school, the West Virginia native worked for his hometown’s weekly newspaper. And while pursuing a bachelor’s degree in journalism at Florida Southern College, he served as editor of the school newspaper.

After college, Crutchfield was employed by the Associated Press, serving as a staff writer, which led to journalism jobs in Florida, New York, South Carolina and Virginia.

Crutchfield was passionate about Scouting and was active in the Boy Scouts of America for 64 years, earning Scouting’s highest regional honor for his volunteer work.

In recent years, Crutchfield conducted journalism seminars and served as a copy-editing adviser.

Crutchfield is survived by his wife, Frances; his son, Larry; and his daughter, Lisa.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m., Monday, March 21, at St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, with a celebration of life at The Country Club of Virginia afterward.