College professors can have a distinct influence on a student’s life. Their teachings and insights often times stick with a student for life. Dr. George A. Gladney has had that effect on many students in his time at the University of Wyoming.
“He is a thought-provoking professor,” Carry Barry-Smith, supervisor of Student Media at UW, said. “I’ve never been in a class with him where I haven’t walked out and really had to examine some paradigms that I had, or some processes that I had going in.”
Gladney earned his first undergraduate degree in English from Waynesburg College in Waynesburg, PA., though it wasn’t his first attempt at higher education. He initially enrolled in the Missouri School of Journalism at the University of Missouri — his parents’ alma mater.
But too much participation in extra-curricular activities cut his first stint at the school short.
“I went off to Colombia, Mo. to major in journalism,” Gladney said. “But I flunked out after the second semester of my sophomore year because I was drinking too much. And so I went home to Pittsburgh, Penn. and ended up at a small private college in extreme southwestern Pennsylvania.”
Gladney would return to the Missouri School of Journalism, earning his Bachelors of Journalism in 1971. Because of his scholastic achievements in his second stint, he secured an internship with the Los Angeles Times after graduation, where he worked in the editorial library and as a business and finance reporter.
“One of my professors urged me to do an internship and said he could get me a lot of good ones,” Gladney said. “For example, he said he could get me an internship at the Los Angeles Times. So I said, yeah, let’s try that.”
The L.A. life did not suit him though, so Gladney continued on to Colorado Springs where he began working at the Colorado Springs Sun.
“It was a small newspaper, but it was a very good newspaper,” Gladney said. “It had a staff and an editor and publisher who were highly respected in the field, and a lot of those people I worked with in the news room at the Colorado Springs Sun went on to do bigger and greater things.”
After leaving the Colorado newspaper scene, Gladney started his own financial public relations consulting firm in Denver, “The George Gladney Co.,” in an attempt to capitalize on the penny stock boom in the early 80’s. The boom was short-lived, however, and Gladney needed a new way to make ends meet, leading to his first experiences in Wyoming.
Gladney served as the managing editor for the Jackson Hole News for four and a half years before deciding to return to school to earn his Master’s in Journalism from the University of Oregon 1988. Shortly after he received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana. An associate professor position opened up at the University of Wyoming later in 1991.
Gladney said the job “had my name written all over it.”
“I was perfectly suited for the position, everything they were looking for [I had],” Gladney said. “So I got the job here and started teaching as an assistant professor. And then through the years I moved through the ranks.”
In his time at the university, he has taught more than 15 different courses in the Communications and Journalism Department. These classes range from undergraduate prerequisites such as News Reporting and Writing to graduate level courses like Media Ecology. He also has taught these courses abroad throughout Eastern Europe and, in June, at Shanghai University in China.
Gladney published numerous articles in various journalism and communications publications, as well as chapters and articles in college textbooks. His more recent publications include “Postscript in Moldova: Media Exaggerates ‘Twitter Revolution,'” and Euphemistic Text Affects Attitudes, Behavior.
Dani Esquivel, a UW senior studying journalism, is another student who Gladney has had a positive effect on. She has taken three classes from Gladney during her studies, and also was one of his advisees. While she liked all the courses he taught, one sticks out more than the others.
“I loved Mass Communication Law, it was by far one of my favorite classes I ever took here,” Esquivel said. “I really like the way he teaches. I learn easily from that, the way he lectures.”
Esquivel also appreciated the way Gladney used his wealth of journalistic skill and understanding to make even the more dull classes interesting.
“My first class with him was Reporting and Newswriting, which was kind of boring,” Esquivel said. “But I liked it because I think he really knows what he is talking about because he has so much experience.”
Like Barry-Smith, Esquivel admires his vast amount of intelligence.
“I think just his knowledge in general [stands out]; he knows so much about everything.” Esquivel said. “You go into his office and it is just books everywhere, a little cluttered mess of information. Even with referencing things, a lot of teachers have to look things up, and he doesn’t ever have to, he just knows so much. It is nice because you can trust his opinion on things.”
Barry-Smith had Gladney as her M.A. advisor, and felt truly lucky that she was able to work intimately with such a gifted academic mind.
“Journalism lost a pretty talented writer and editor when he decided to become a professor,” Barry-Smith said. “The good thing about that is it gained a whole bunch of people who were touched by that brilliance.”
Fall 2013 marks the last semester that Gladney will be teaching at the university. He said that in his retirement, most of his day involves “putzing around the house” and cleaning out his knowledge-saturated office.
Esquivel wishes him the best, but admits the university is losing a great asset.
“I am pretty bummed he is retiring,” Esquivel said. “But I am glad I was able to take those classes from him.”