Dr. John Lee Jellicorse, UNCG professor emeritus, died July 1, 2020.
His distinguished career at UNCG and beyond encompassed a tremendous number of subject areas within theater, communication studies, and media studies.
Jellicorse began shooting 16 mm film when he was eleven, learning from his father who was a radio and television engineer. He worked as a still and movie photographer and radio announcer while a college student. He earned his AB degree from the University of Tennessee and his doctorate from Northwestern University, where he taught and became head of the Communication Studies Department, before returning to University of Tennessee as an associated professor in two departments.
Jellicorse came to UNCG in 1974 to serve as department head of the Drama and Speech Department, which became the Department of Communication and Theatre.
He initiated years of substantial growth in many areas at UNCG. He hired key faculty, launched new curricula and sources of funding, and taught undergraduate and graduate courses while also initiating new programs in speech sciences, education of deaf children, broadcasting, and cinema. Under his leadership, the Department of Communication and Theater became the University’s largest department, enrolling 1,308 students and serving more than nine hundred majors, with multiple undergraduate and graduate programs in six different disciplines. Subsequently, the five divisions of the Communication and Theatre Department all became separate flourishing departments with Jellicorse serving as the first regular department head in Broadcasting and Cinema, now known as Media Studies.
Jellicorse also served as a department head and dean at Northwestern University, University of Tennessee, and Hong Kong Baptist University, where he was founding dean in the School of Communication and acted and directed for the Shouson Theatre.
He was a frequent contributor to professional journals and associations and pursued creative work as an actor, director, and film producer. But his greatest contribution was as a teacher and curriculum developer. Throughout his university career, he taught more than sixty different courses including nine in journalism and mass media, seven in communication theory, twelve in broadcasting, twenty in cinema, two in fundamentals of speech, fourteen in communication studies, and six in theater, plus thesis and doctoral student supervision.
In 2019, the UNCG School of Theatre recognized Jellicorse as a “Hall of Fame” honoree. Greensboro audiences may remember Jellicorse as Henry in “The Lion in Winter” and Whiteside in “The Man Who Came to Dinner.”
Memorial contributions may be made to the Dr. John Lee Jellicorse Scholarship Fund.
To otherwise honor his memory, he requested that folks partake of their favorite adult beverage and watch a good print of Chaplin’s “City Lights.” “So fill to me the parting glass. Good night and joy be with you all.”
Memories of John Lee Jellicorse
“John Lee Jellicorse was a transformational leader. He took a small speech and theater department at UNCG in 1974, and developed it into the largest department in the University with undergraduate and graduate programs in communication studies, speech pathology and audiology, broadcasting/cinema, and theater, with 1000 majors and 40 faculty and staff. John was in every way a master teacher and adminstrator.”
-Bob Hansen, professor emeritus and former head of UNCG’s Department of Communication and Theatre
“Thanks to John Lee Jellicorse’s leadership we have Professions in Deafness, Speech-Language Pathology, Media Studies, Communication Studies, School of Theatre… Communication is part of so much of academia and UNC-G and he helped make that flourish!”
– Celia Hooper ’74 MA, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders and former dean of HHS
“In terms of the Department of Media Studies, it owes its existence to John Lee Jellicorse. When Dr. Jellicorse arrived on campus in the mid-1970’s, he began creating courses that were specifically in fields of radio, television, and motion pictures.…In the early 2000’s when we became a separate Department of Broadcasting and Cinema, Dr. Jellicorse served as our first Department Head in those formative years. He was part of the creation of our MFA in Drama concentration Film and Video Production which was offered from the 1990’s to the mid-2000’s. He was instrumental in the creation of the UNCG Film and Video Festival which ran for a number of years. He was involved with the Department’s association with WUAG the campus student run radio station and many other extracurricular organizations and opportunities for UNCG students in media studies.”
-Frank Donaldson, Department of Media Studies
“John Lee was the department head who hired me for my first full-time ‘real’ academic job here in 1985, as a short-term lecturer. When I arrived for the interview, he handed me the keys to his car so I could check out the city (not a practice we recommend today!) His ideas about media were far ahead of his time. 21 years later, I returned to UNCG as a tenured full professor. John Lee Jellicorse played a key role in launching my academic career.”
-Roy Schwartzman, Department of Communication Studies
“He was a brilliant man and one of my favorite professors at UNCG.”
-Donegan Root ’87, Office of Alumni Engagement