Paul Delbert “Del” Brinkman, who began his career as a journalist for a newspaper once edited by William Allen White and retired 48 years later as a distinguished journalism educator and dean, died February 19. He was 86 and lived in Overland Park.
Del was born in Olpe, Kansas, to Paul and Delphine Brinkman, the oldest of five children who lived on the family’s farm. It was there he first heard the St. Louis Cardinals on the radio, sparking a lifelong love of baseball and kindling an interest in journalism. He graduated from Olpe High School and attended Emporia State University, where he earned a degree in English and Social Science.
While in college, he worked for The Emporia Gazette and after graduation taught English and journalism at Leavenworth High School before pursuing graduate studies at Indiana University in Bloomington, where he earned a master’s degree in journalism in 1963 and a doctorate in mass communication in 1971. He was on the journalism faculty at Kansas State University from 1965-1968 before joining the William Allen White School of Journalism at Kansas in 1970, where he worked until 1993.
While at KU, Del led the journalism school as dean for 11 years before serving as vice chancellor for academic affairs for seven years. He was KU’s faculty representative to the Big Eight Conference and NCAA for 15 years. He twice chaired the Big Eight Conference and led the search committee that hired Carl James as conference commissioner. He also served on numerous search committees at KU, including in 1988, when Roy Williams was named KU’s seventh basketball coach.
Del left KU in 1993 to become Director of Journalism Programs at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation in Miami, where he oversaw the foundation’s journalism grant programs and new education initiatives. In 2001, he left the Knight Foundation to become dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where he retired in 2002. Throughout his career, he also was active in journalism education curriculum development and national accreditation. He was president of the accreditation committee of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications. He received numerous awards, including recognition as a distinguished alumnus from Emporia State and Indiana University’s Distinguished Alumni Service Award.
In retirement, Del remained active in numerous professional and civic organizations. He served on the Colorado Journalism and Mass Communications Advisory Board and was an Honorary Trustee of the William Allen White Foundation at KU. For 15 years, he served as a member of the Advisory Committee of the Knight International Press Fellowship and was a public member of the American Bar Association’s Council on the Accreditation of Law Schools.
In a commencement address, Del once told journalism graduates at Colorado about the “six G’s” of life: a person who is great and good, grateful and gracious, generous and glad is likely to live a happy, successful life. Friends, students and colleagues will remember Del for all of those qualities, and will miss his curious mind and kind spirit.
Del was a doting father and grandfather who loved spending time with his grandchildren.
Del was preceded in death by his parents; first wife, Evie; second wife, Carolyn; and his sister, Rosie Pounder. He is survived by his sister Barbara Becker; brothers Ronnie and Marvin; son Scott; daughter Susan Moeser (Chris); stepchildren Cindy Cummings (Bill), Debra Baker and Jeff Backer (Jennifer); grandchildren Kelsey Brinkman, Jack and Claire Moeser; step-grandchildren Chris Baker, Kim Bergman (Dan), Nicole Cummings, Katie and Jack Backer; and five step-great grandchildren. He will be buried at Pioneer Cemetery at KU next to his wife, Evie, who died in 1988.
Memorial donations may be made to the Dean Del Brinkman Journalism Scholarship at KU Endowment, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044, or online at www.kuendowment.org/givenow.
A celebration of life will be held at a later date.
Messages & Condolences
I was searching for someone else’s obituary and, as I scrolled down the page, came upon Dean Brinkman’s — and immediately burst into tears. What an excellent dean, teacher and human being he was! He, along with John Bremner, Lee Young, Suzanne Shaw and Calder Pickett, were among the many luminaries at the KU journalism school when I attended to learn how to be a journalist. Going to KU j-school was one of the best decisions I ever made. Sending thoughts and prayers of comfort to his family and all others who miss this great man. Paula Haas (then Paula Jolly), class of 1976
I first met “Dr.” Brinkman in the fall of 1972 as a transfer student to KU and the journalism school. He became my advisor and for years later a trusted friend who guided me through job and career changes. He found my first job for me as a Sports Editor/News Reporter at the Fort Scott Tribune in the fall of 1974 as I was completing my studies. Every step of my career, Dr. Brinkman was consulted and gave his profound advice about my new opportunities. He, along with Calder Pickett, John Bremner and Susanne Shaw were my mentors and guiding light for my career. Another candle has been extinguished and he will be greatly missed. I still have his Law of Communications book on my library shelf. My condolences to the entire family. I will miss my periodic phone calls to him.
As a graduate student at IU, I remember the Brinkman family—Del, Evie, Scott and Susan—as I popped in and out of Gretchen Kemp’s home. Gretchen was Chairman of Del’s doctoral committee; I was the by-stander relative. Gretchen loved the entire Brinkman family as they became a part of hers. My thoughts are with you, Scott and Susan. Your dad exemplified all six of those “G’s”!
Dean Brinkman, as I knew him as a KU student in the 1970s, taught the “Law of Mass Communications.” I still have the book nearly five decades later. The book is filled with underlines and notes, undoubtedly from Dean Brinkman’s astute observations. I always appreciated his careful and considered approach to teaching law and to this day recall a number of cases he highlighted. My condolences to his family.
Del made a huge difference in my life, inviting me to come to KU at a critical crossroads in my work as an editor. He and his wonderful colleagues opened to me the world of teaching and scholarship that prepared me to return to a rich life as an editor. He was a special friend, a man of honesty, high values, loyalty and fun. Del imbued in me and my family the Jayhawk spirit that lives today.
It’s hard to say in a few words just how much Dean Brinkman meant to us. A dear friend, an ever-helpful mentor, a trusted advisor, a rare wit. We grieve for his family, but we grieve for ourselves as well. This is a huge loss.
Del was a wonderful dean at the University of Colorado – a time
that was too brief. Wonderful memories of his wisdom and
decency. And he did love Kansas and his family so very much.
Del was a model of what a good journalist and journalism educator should be. He was also modest, unflappable, and unselfish. His judgment was always sound, and his loyalty to IU and KU was unquestionable. His passing is a great loss to journalism education and especially to those who knew and cared about him.
To make good journalism is an accomplishment. To make good journalists is a gift.
Proud of my start at KU. Sending warm thoughts to your family.
My husband Gene and Del were alike on so many levels… academics, journalism, and baseball. They would have long conversations on all those areas. It seems like the old guard is slowly passing away. Del will be missed and I send a big hug to Susan and Scott!
Hey Scott, I’m so sorry to hear of your Dad’s passing. I still remember the all the great times we had back in the day.
Del was a special person to me and obviously to many others. Our thoughts are with the family.
I The journalism profession has lost one of its giants in the passing of Del Brinkman and I have lost one of my most valued friends and colleague. When I was named to come to The University of Kansas in 1977, Del was the first person to call me and welcome me due to our mutual connection and love for Indiana University. That began a genuine and family friendship that has endured throughout all those many years. Unfortunately, his health and the pandemic restricted his ability to fully enjoy his return to his beloved state of Kansas. He will be revered as one of its outstanding native sons.
Del was a great colleague and friend at KU. What a serendipitous joy it was to share grand parenting with him. He will be greatly missed.
I will alway remember Del from my days in Flint Hall earning my Journalism degree. A kind soul and an excellent teacher. He and John Bremner were the best teachers I ever had. Godspeed Del. May you Rest In Peace.
Del was a delightful man to be around, always genial and a great exemplar for faculty at KU. He made KU a better university and was a great ambassador during his tenure here. I’m grateful for his guidance and friendship.
I am sorry to learn of Del’s passing. He was a wonderful person, a true professional, but most important, he cared about his students and the many others he came in contact with over the decades. Blessing to his family at this time of loss. Joe Vaughan, J-School ’71
So sorry for your loss, Susan and Chris. Thinking of you and your family at this difficult time
Dear Susan, Chris, Jack and Claire, we are so sorry for your loss. Keep your memories close. Love, Bob & Connie
Del was such a Great human being and Journalist. So grateful for his years in Lawrence & KU….