Communication Professor Anita Taylor to Retire After 25 Years

Posted: December 16, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Jennifer Mitchell

Anita Taylor
Anita Taylor

Anita Taylor, first chair of the Department of Communication at Mason and professor of communication and gender studies, will retire this semester. Colleagues are invited to attend a reception in her honor tomorrow at George’s Restaurant in the Johnson Center from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Taylor has been recognized with numerous awards as an outstanding scholar, leader, mentor, and teacher. In 2000, she received the National Communication Association’s Distinguished Service Award, which recognizes an NCA member who has done exceptional teaching and research during the course of his or her career. In 2001, the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender named her as recipient of its Inaugural Teacher/Mentor Award. Taylor has served as executive editor of Women and Language, a national journal, for 12 years, and she is currently working on an issue concerning war language and gender.

Taylor, who joined Mason in 1979, has been a consistent active voice for change and advancement. In a career spanning more than 40 years, she has been an important influence to faculty members at Mason, as well as on a national level. “Anita has encouraged untold numbers of us to achieve, volunteered us for jobs, and pushed us to places we weren’t sure we could go,” says Cynthia Lont, professor of communication. “She not only affected life for women and other disenfranchised groups at Mason, she has affected students and faculty across the United States in our discipline. Most of us wish we could grow up to be just like Anita.”

When Taylor first arrived at the university, there was no real communication department. “The first proposal was turned down, so the dean at the time [Leon E. Boothe] flew me in from St. Louis to speak at the appeal,” says Taylor, who is an expert on debate and persuasion. “I guess it worked, because that fall our first three students graduated with communication degrees.” Since then, Taylor says, the department has strived to be nontraditional, and “we work pretty hard to keep it that way. One of the reasons I fit into this institution is because it is not tradition-bound.”

Even though retirement will free her from a heavy course load, Taylor will continue her work in communication and gender studies. “I have reached a point where there are things I want to say—to get into print—but haven’t had the time.” In one of her first projects, Taylor will work with M.J. Hardman of the University of Florida on the impact of language and gender and power. “We are going to create a CD with teaching materials for middle school through the university level, so instructors can actually make the kind of changes in the way people talk and write that will begin to influence some of the ways they think.”

On the personal side, Taylor also plans to spend time updating her photography skills. “I always say I’m going to ‘play with my pictures,’ and I’m going to learn all there is to know about digital,” she says. “I love to take photographs of landscapes, flowers, and trees.”

Taylor will be missed by students and faculty alike. In exit interviews, seniors say they value Taylor’s classes. One student commented, “We talk about things that matter.” Linda Miller, associate dean in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, says Taylor has been instrumental in her career here at Mason. “In so many ways, she has been a mentor for the past 24 years. I have consulted her many times on university issues and depended on her guidance. George Mason will simply not be the same for me without her.”

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