Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Donald K. Enholm, 1935-2011: Ex-professor at BGSU taught public speaking

BOWLING GREEN -- Donald K. Enholm, who made the study -- and teaching -- of public speaking, persuasion, and rhetorical theory his life's work, died April 15 in Bridge Hospice Care Center, Bowling Green, of pneumonia. He was 75.

He had a stroke about a year ago and was in ill health, his wife, Sue, said.

Mr. Enholm was a faculty member at Bowling Green State University for 35 years, retiring in 2008 as associate professor of interpersonal communication. He was a former department chairman.

He was named College Teacher of the Year for 1988 by the Speech Communication Association of Ohio. A decade later, he was a finalist for the Outstanding Teacher Award presented by the Undergraduate Student Government at BGSU. He appreciated the honors for teaching, yet could do without many of academe's trappings.

"He didn't like pretentiousness, and he didn't particularly like the idea of people calling each other 'Doctor,' " his wife said. "He preferred to have people call him by his first name."

Classes might not be in session, but he still went to his office over spring and holiday breaks.

"He was dedicated to anything he did and tried to do it right," his wife said.

He taught classes in argumentation; persuasion; public speaking; critical thinking, as well as communication in the arts, business, the sciences, and the professional world. In 1996, a presidential election year, BGSU's news services department sent his name to reporters and editors as a good source "for insights on the message and process of election-year debates," according to a news release. He led graduate courses in rhetorical criticism, contemporary rhetorical theory, and ethics.

He wrote articles and book reviews for academic and professional publications and was a former editor of Ohio Speech Journal.

He served on many committees in the BGSU college of arts and sciences and in his department, then called "interpersonal communication. For several years, he even was announcer for the arts and sciences spring graduation.

"He was a professor who demanded a lot of his students, and we all worked very hard to rise to his expectation level," said Marcia Sloan Latta, a student of his while an undergraduate in the early 1980s. Her senior year, he invited her to teach a debate class with him.

"He had this booming voice," said Ms. Latta, who years later worked for BGSU as a leader in alumni and development efforts. "He wanted to be sure that students had very thoroughly thought through not only their argumentation and debate view, but they thought through what the opposition would be presenting. And you had better not have a flawed premise. He always said, 'If you have a flawed premise, your argument is doomed.' I still remember this.

"For all that he was tough in the classroom, he was so well respected that students wanted to take his courses. You knew you would learn so much and come out of it a better student."

He was born May 27, 1935, to Ethel and Hugh Enholm in Omaha, Neb. The family moved to Los Angeles, where he spent his teen years. He received a bachelor of arts degree in speech, English, and history from Pepperdine College. His first job was as a high school speech teacher and debate coach in El Dorado, Kan.

"If they offered a history job, that's probably what he would have been teaching all this time," his wife said.

He later taught and was a debate coach at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kan. He continued to take classes in the field, and received a master of arts degree in speech in 1966 from Emporia State Teachers College, Emporia, Kan.

He was hired by BGSU in 1973 and, in 1975, he received a doctorate in speech communication from the University of Kansas.

"He was exactly the sort of professor I want my children to have," Ms. Latta said. "He was so scholarly, so knowledgeable, demanding for the right reasons."

"He loved his discipline and very much kept up on what was happening in the speech-communication-debate field," she said. "But he also just loved nurturing students' minds and helping us all to be the best we could be."

He had an interest, dating to his youth, in the German resistance movement during World War II. His study of the movement informed much of his scholarship, his wife said.

He liked to visit used bookstores in Ohio and other states in his constant search for books on World War II. A favorite was John K. King Used & Rare Books in Detroit.

Surviving are his wife, Sue, whom he married in 1955; daughter, Kirsten Palmer; sons, Charles and Eric Enholm; brother, Charles and Ted Enholm; sister, Susan Perkins, and two granddaughters.

Memorial services with the family will be held later. Arrangements are by the Dunn Funeral Home, Bowling Green.

The family suggests tributes to Bridge Hospice Care Center, Bowling Green.

Contact Mark Zaborney at: or 419-724-6182.

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