Former Longtime Murray State JMC Professor And Department Chair Bob McGaughey Has Died

Jun 14, 2019

Bob McGaughey (right) with Bob Valentine and Asia Burnett in Fall 2018
Credit Matt Markgraf / WKMS

Former longtime Murray State University Journalism and Mass Communications professor and department chair Bob McGaughey has died.

JMC professor Bob Valentine was a close friend. He said McGaughey died of complications from leukemia Friday afternoon at the University of Louisville Medical School.

McGaughey was born in Anniston, Alabama. He was an alum of Hopkinsville High School class of 1961 and Murray State in 1965. He has a bachelor’s and master’s from MSU and a doctorate from Ohio University. He was in the ROTC and served in the Army during the Vietnam War. He retired from the Army with the rank of Major.

Valentine said among his numerous accomplishments, McGaughey was a distinguished professor and a member of the Kentucky Press Association Hall of Fame. McGaughey was also a Frank Stanton Fellow of the International Radio and Television Society and a member of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity.

Valentine said McGaughey was the longest-sitting chairman of the JMC department. While chair, the department added majors in advertising, public relations and graphic communication management. He added McGaughey was “a great man” and an “institution at Murray State,” noting his famous blue cowboy hat often seen at Murray State Homecomings.

He said McGaughey retired “several different times” - often coming back to teach part-time or handling other responsibilities. “I cannot tell you when he finally retired because by that time his friends were so tired of him retiring that they didn’t pay much attention to the last one because they didn’t think he was sincere about it,” Valentine said. “They thought he’d be back.”

Valentine reminisced on his time with McGaughey: “Every time he and I did a public workshop or a performance, he would always end by saying, ‘if you want to be an effective communicator, there are two important things you must never forget. First, if you want to be a great communicator, don’t forget you have to listen. And second, never lose your sense of humor.’ I don’t think he ever did.”   

Valentine shared the story of how he became friends with McGaughey, recalling a party in 1978 when McGaughey was telling a joke and took a sip of Pepsi-Cola. He swallowed it down the wrong pipe and got choked up. “He pointed to me and I finished the joke. And that started us telling stories together.” They participated in a number of performances as comedic duo “Dr. Trey and Dr. Vee” - performing across the country together over the years. “And it was always fun. The trips were always fun. People laughed a lot. I’m going to start writing the hundreds of stories I’ve got of times they should have called the police, but let us go on.”

He said over the past couple of days, calls have been pouring in from across the country. “We’ll never know” how many lives he touched, training numerous professionals and teachers, who, in turn, touched hundreds or thousands of people.

Interim JMC Chair Allen White said McGaughey embodied the department and called his death “devastating news for a lot of people.”

“You can call anybody who's been around Murray State for any time at all and mention the name Bob McGaughey and they will have a story for you,” White said. “He knew everybody and he had an impact on everybody that he had contact with. There are hundreds, probably thousands, of alumni from this department who absolutely adored him.”

WKMS Station Manager Chad Lampe said, “We at WKMS are saddened to learn of the passing of Doc McGaughey. He was integral to the success of WKMS for all of its nearly 50 years on the air. He will be sorely missed. He and his loved ones will be in our thoughts and prayers.”