Honoring Dr. Stan Soffin

In Memory of Dr. Stan Soffin

June 23, 1942 — July 9, 2020

This page is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Stan Soffin, who served as director of the MSU School of Journalism from 1982 to 1998. Dr. Soffin passed away on July 9, 2020. To honor his life and work, MSU has established the Stan Soffin Journalism Scholarship Fund.

After graduating from the University of Michigan in 1964, Dr. Stan Soffin taught Journalism and English at Monte Vista High School in Whittier, California. He holds two degrees from MSU, a Master of Arts in Journalism and a Doctorate in English: American Studies.

Dr. Soffin joined the faculty of the MSU School of Journalism in 1968 and served as its director from 1982 to 1998, when he was appointed MSU's fourth University Ombudsman. As director, Professor Soffin guided the journalism school successfully through three accreditation reviews and into the top echelon of journalism programs. He attracted outstanding new faculty to the MSU School of Journalism, and led fundraising campaigns that resulted in new technology and 13 new scholarships. 

A few of his notable acts that have had a reverberating effect throughout the journalism industry include:

  • Dr. Soffin developed a powerhouse journalism department that would elevate the program's national reputation. He worked to add influential researchers to MSU's faculty and staff. The faculty he attracted became nationally-recognized researchers that professionals across the county could call for consultation and advice. These faculty members have produced hundreds of research publications that have helped guide the industry in many areas, including media economics and management, political coverage, media ethics, international media and innovative technologies.
  • The Knight Foundation supported Dr. Soffin’s proposal to establish a chair in environmental reporting, leading to a grant of $1 million that has since increased to $2 million. The Knight Center for Environmental Journalism is known across the world for its annual workshops held in the U.S. and internationally. It was the nucleus for the national Society of Environmental Reporters and for the International Federation of Environmental Journalists. 
  • Dr. Soffin secured support from the Knight Foundation Journalism Program to increase the number of minority high school journalism teachers.
  • Dr. Soffin wrote a successful grant to the Dart Foundation to initiate the nation’s first Victims and the Media Program at the MSU School of Journalism. The program encourages the study of the interpersonal and psychological effects of trauma on journalists and the people they interview. It serves to raise awareness of the sensitivity with which victims should be treated by media representatives. 
  • Dr. Soffin revived the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 1985. The Hall of Fame was founded by the Michigan Press Association and languished for several years. Now, the Hall of Fame continues and it features a successful event celebrating new inductees.
  • In 1982, Dr. Soffin brought the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association (MIPA) to the School of Journalism. This organization offers classes to high school teachers to refresh their skills or support their state accreditation. In addition, hundreds of high school students visit the MSU campus to learn more about journalism.
  • Dr. Soffin raised money for scholarships and conducted development work that benefited journalism students directly. Each year, more than 50 journalism students at MSU receive scholarships, many of which Dr. Soffin garnered from caring donors and alumni.
  • Dr. Soffin was a mentor, advisor and class instructor for hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students in journalism across a span of 20 years. 

"Our Spartan family lost a true leader and special person this week with the passing of Dr. Stan Soffin. He always put his students first. He had an indelible impact on our world," said R. Matt Davis, a member of the Alumni Executive Board for MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences. "Personally, I would not have been a Spartan without the encouragement from Dr. Soffin. He was also the one who connected me to my first Journalism internship and my first job when I graduated from MSU. I owe a large part of my professional and personal success to him. He made me feel special. But he made every one of his students feel the same! He brought out the best in everyone. I will miss my coach, my mentor, my dear friend.  The world needs more people like Dr. Stan Soffin. Who will miss him? Spartans Will!!"

Dr. Soffin attracted outstanding new faculty to the J-School, and led fundraising campaigns that brought several innovative programs to the school, which include the endowed Knight Chair in Journalism, the Gannett Hispanic Journalism Scholarship Program, the Victims and the Media Program, and the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association. 

His research interests included the First Amendment rights of students and an assessment of fairness and balance in daily newspaper coverage of controversial issues.

"Stan was a terrific leader, educator and scholar, who played a critical role in shaping journalism research and education at Michigan State University. He was admired by the Spartan community for his thoughtfulness and kindness," said Prabu David, Dean of MSU's College of Communication Arts and Sciences. 

As University Ombudsman, he served on the Board of Directors of the University and College Ombudsman Association, developed an innovative online problem-report form, and participated in more than 200 workshops, seminars, and class visitations

Dr. Soffin was inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame in 1998 for his contributions to journalism through journalism education, and The State News Hall of Fame in 2010.

Give to his endowment fund