LaRue Gilleland was a respected journalist and academic who helped in transforming a small journalism program into what is now established as Northeastern’s School of Journalism. He is credited with helping to create the Northeastern University’s graduate program in journalism. He died at the age of 89. A program developed into a full-fledged journalism school under his tenure as director from 1981 to 1992, strengthened by an increase in funding and the development of new facilities. The department swelled from three to 12 faculty members and student enrollment more than doubled.
Gilleland was a native of Missouri and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism from the University of Missouri, Columbia. Initially, he worked at newspapers in Honolulu, Los Angeles, Tulsa, and Memphis, during which he interviewed the likes of President Harry Truman, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and Elvis Presley. He also taught in and chaired the journalism department at the University of Nevada.
At Northeastern, Gilleland’s friends and colleagues called him an effective leader who was very warm and always accessible. He was quiet yet a witty conversationalist, an affable and easygoing colleague and friend. They say he instilled camaraderie and brought a sense of stability to Northeastern’s journalism department. He turned into an avid sailor who loved traveling and reading during his free time.
“He never seemed like he was telling anybody what to do. He just had this charm and intelligence that got things done in a very low-key way”, said James Ross, a journalism professor who was hired by Gilleland in 1988. Ross remembers Gilleland as a friend, colleague, and a boss who represented one of the “great old-school journalists.”
Gilleland is survived by his wife, Betsy; his children, Virginia Gilleland of Youngsville, Louisiana, Michelle Daigle of Norfolk, Massachusetts, and Ross Gilleland of Norfolk, Massachusetts; six granddaughters; and four great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his daughter, Louise Lenzen of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Shahjadi Jemim Rahman