|courtesy of A. Sue Weisler
As we walk through life, we tend to remember the sights we have seen, the goals we have
accomplished and, most importantly, the people we have met. On Tuesday, September
25, Dr. Diane Schaich Hope died of cancer. A professor emeritus in RIT’s Department of
Communication (DOC), Hope greatly impacted not just the DOC, but also the students and
faculty of RIT that had the pleasure of learning from and working with her.
Hope joined the RIT faculty in 1982. Along with Professor Bruce Austin, she was crucial in
helping found the DOC, according to Department Chair Patrick Scanlon. Having previously
established a similar department at the Randolph-Macon Women’s College, Hope took the
challenge head-on and succeeded in creating the DOC, which then had only a few degree
programs in communication. “It was not an easy thing to do, and it took a few years of work to
get a program off the ground,” said Scanlon. “She was a good person to be involved. When there
was something she believed in, she was all out for it.”
Hope used this determination to pursue her other passions: politics and environmentalism.
She was a defender of women’s issues and reproductive rights as well as a steward of the
environment who had a soft spot for the Catskills and was fiercely against the practice of
hydrofracking. “She was uncompromising and loved to argue,” said Scanlon. “She was the kind
of person who did not back down to bullies. And that served her well as an administrator.”
Cassandra Shellman, the administrative assistant to the endowed chairs in the College of
Liberal Arts (COLA), first met Hope as a student in Hope’s Foundations of Communication
class. “She was a professor that really knew her craft,” wrote Shellman in an email. “She was
always available for the students. She was very patient and fair.” Shellman would serve as
Hope’s administrative assistant while she was interim dean of COLA and, later, the William A.
Kern Professor in Communications. According to Shellman, Hope always made sure to make
everyone feel like they were valuable members of the team. “I want people to know that she
was a woman that believed in justice for all … the underprivileged, women, minorities and all
genders. She was fearless!”
To Dr. Keith Jenkins, the coordinator of undergraduate degree programs in the DOC, Hope was
his “first face of Rochester.” Jenkins, then at Florida State University, traveled to RIT in March
1992 to interview for a DOC position. Hope was the first person to greet Jenkins and even gave
him a limited tour of Rochester. “[Hope] was a woman of great integrity, committed to equality
and justice for individuals, one who was passionate not only about education but about family,
friendship and about people being better than they are now,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins stated that Hope’s commitment to education made a large difference in the lives of her
students, imparting them with the courage to stand for the causes they believed in. Each year,
Hope would come into Jenkins’ Rhetoric of Race Relations course to lecture the students on
the role she played in supporting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Jenkins said that she
boarded a bus heading southward to protest the unfair laws that had limited individuals there.
Hope also marched with fellow protesters on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala. where
demonstrators had been previously killed.
David Neumann, a professor of communication, met Hope when he joined the staff in 1987.
To Neumann, Hope was a longtime friend and mentor, with whom both he and his wife were
close. “She was always a warm and outgoing person interested in who I was,” said Neumann. “I
think that she changed a lot of peoples’ lives, opened them up to the possibilities, and helped to
make the world a better place.”
Dr. Hope’s legacy will continue to impact the students and faculty of the DOC through the
recently created Diane Hope Fund. According to Linda Miller, the director of leadership giving,
the fund was a product of the combined efforts of her former students and faculty, who rallied
together to honor her. Starting on September 19, a few days before her death, Miller began to
accept donations to the fund, reaching their goal of $10,000 in just two days, mostly due to the
generous donation from former student Nina Romano and her parents, who donated a total of
$10,000. To date, a total of $16,000 has been raised and will be used to fund student scholarship
and activities in the department.
“When I think of Diane,” recalled Jenkins, “her great capacity to love stands out.”