By Paul T. Choate
July 13, 2012. A beloved figure at Appalachian State University, Dr. Claude Howard Dorgan, formerly of the Communication Department, passed away at his home in Boone on July 5 at the age of 80. Well known to both the university and community, Dorgan will be sorely missed.
Dorgan was born July 5, 1932 in Ruston, Louisiana. As a young man he earned his bachelor of arts degree in speech and theater from the University of Texas at El Paso. He then went on to receive his master of fine arts degree in theater from the University of Texas at Austin and his Ph.D. in speech communication at Louisiana State University. Dorgan joined the faculty of ASU in 1971.
Dr. Janice Pope, communication department chair and former colleague of Dorgan’s, described him as one of the “founding members” of the department. She also said the department has been deeply saddened by his passing.
Dorgan worked in the communication department until his retirement in 2000. Pope said since his passing last week, alumni have been calling the department “saying how much they loved him and how significant of a person he was in their lives.”
“I think Howard had a great deal of integrity. He spoke his mind and was kind and gentle, but he also didn’t shy away from saying what he thought was right. I admired that greatly,” said Pope. “He was an all-around gentleman and scholar.”
Dorgan was perhaps best known for his interest Appalachian Studies and even more so for his love of old time religion. According to Appalachian Statue University, “[Dorgan] initially became fascinated by the highly rhythmical and largely changed homiletic style of the Appalachian old-time Baptist preacher, and he followed this work with his rhetorical and ethnographic research concerning a wide range of exceedingly traditional Baptist sub-denominations, some found only in Central Appalachia.” His studies spanned over thirty years in the field.
He served in many capacities at ASU, most notably as president of the Appalachian Studies Association and president of the Southern States Communication Association. He was also a prolific writer, authoring fifty journal articles, encyclopedia entries and book chapters. In 1993, Dorgan won the Thomas Wolfe Literary Award for his book, “Airwaves of Zion.” Additionally in 1993, he won the ASU College of Fine and Applied Arts Outstanding Faculty Award.
In February of this year, ASU held the inaugural C. Howard Dorgan Oratory Contest which will take place annually henceforth. In the initial installment of the contest the first place prize was $250.
He is survived by his wife, Kathleen, a retired teacher formerly with the Watauga County School system, and his two children, Shawn and Kelly.
No funeral date was provided as per request of the family in his obituary, wanting the service and information about its date and time to be kept private.
Condolences to the family can be sent to Appalachian Studies Association c/o Mary Thomas, Appalachian Studies Association, One John Marshall Dr., Huntington, West Virginia 25755. On the memo line “For Howard Dorgan Silent Auction Scholarship Fund or to The Dorgan Oratory Contest, Department of Communication, Appalachian State University, Box 32039, Boone, NC 28608-2039” should be written.
Online condolences may be sent to the Dorgan family at austinandbarnesfuneralhome.com.