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Updated 10:00 AM December 4, 2006




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Henry Root Austin

Henry Root Austin, professor emeritus of communication, died Sept. 4. He was 97.

Austin was born in Alma, Mich. His family moved to Ann Arbor, where he earned all of his degrees from U-M—Bachelor of Arts (1934), Master of Arts (1947) and doctoral degree in education (1959). Gifted as a singer and actor, he appeared as a student in a number of University operas and plays, and following his graduation began a career as a professional performer, which led to appearances on the Broadway stage in the early 1940s.

With the coming of World War II, Austin served as a naval officer in the Pacific, rising to the rank of lieutenant commander. At the war's end, he returned to his professional career. Among his notable performances was his portrayal of Jud in "Oklahoma!" in a company that toured the United States and appeared in Europe as part of the U.S. State Department's cultural exchange program.

In addition, Austin undertook graduate study during this period and served the University's departments of English and speech as a teaching fellow. He also became the director of radio and television for the summer sessions of the National Music Camp at Interlochen, an experience that gave him the background for his doctoral dissertation on some aspects of the camp's history.

Austin's experience as a professional and his ability to analyze and explain the elements of effective performance uniquely qualified him to teach acting, announcing, and newscasting for radio and television, colleagues say. They also say he developed innovative classroom procedures and carried out a number of research studies designed to improve teaching in this area, contributing significantly to the teaching of radio and television production techniques.

On his retirement from the University in 1980 after 26 years of service, Austin moved to New Mexico and embarked upon a career as a wood sculptor. In his later years, he and his wife, Carolyn, spent six months in New Mexico and six months in Ann Arbor, where he was a regular at weekly lunches of the emeritus speech faculty.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by two sons, Henry Jr., of Dallas, Texas, and Bill, of Bloomington, Ind.
—Submitted by Roberta Saling, Communications Studies

The Record accepts obituaries from University departments, family members and funeral homes acting on behalf of the family. All obituaries must be for active or retired faculty and staff members.

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