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2021 National Communication Association Convention Highlights - Tribute Panel for Judith Trent

Dr. Steve Depoe


A host of UC Department of Communication faculty members and graduate students attended the 117th annual National Communication Association (NCA) convention, held in person on November 18-21 in Seattle, Washington.

Among the convention highlights was a spotlight panel honoring the life and career of long-time UC Communication faculty member Judith (Juddi) Trent, who passed away on November 26, 2020. Dr. Trent spent over 40 years in the field of communication, specializing in women in politics and Presidential campaign rhetoric. She is credited with developing the concept of "surfacing" to describe how would-be Presidential candidates strategically enter the public arena during each electoral cycle.

At UC, Dr. Trent served as Associate Vice President and Associate University Dean of Research and Advanced Studies from 1984 to 2000, and was also a tenured professor in the Department of Communication. Dr. Trent was also a national leader in communication organizations, serving as president of the Central States Communication Association in 1982 and NCA in 1997.

Dr. Trent was known as a champion of graduate students, encouraging them to attend conferences as a way of getting started in the field. She made generous donations to the UC Department of Communication's Communication Forum Fund as a way to support graduate student travel to NCA and other conferences.

The panel at this year's NCA convention, organized by Juddi's long-time colleague and friend Professor Dawn Braithwaite from the University of Nebraska, featured a number of tributes made from both scheduled speakers and members of the audience. Representing UC's Department of Communication, Professor Ron Jackson (in person) and Steve Depoe (via video) contributed remarks during the 90-minute gathering of Dr. Trent's former colleagues and students. Professor Heather Zoller was also in attendance.

When asked to summarize the panel, Professor Jackson said, "Panelists shared memories and pictures of Juddi from the beginning of her career as a high school debate coach. Everyone remarked how stylish and fiercely confident she was as a coach, scholar, administrator and NCA president. The event was well attended and replete with personal stories, previous students, laughter, and tears." Professor Zoller added, "It was clear from the event that Juddi wasn't just a big personality, and wasn't just a President of NCA. She used her leadership skills to support others, blazing a path for women in the field, and mentoring minoritized faculty. She was a friend to many, quick with her sense of humor, and is sorely missed."

Steve Depoe (the author of this story) knew Juddi Trent as a fellow graduate student (she and her husband Jimmi attended Northwestern University as graduate fellows in 1984 while Depoe was attending), as a teaching colleague (Dr. Trent and Dr. Depoe team-taught the Rhetoric of Social Movements course in the department for a number of years), as Dr. Trent's department head (Depoe served from 2011-21 and presided over Juddi's retirement from the department), and, most recently, as a lunch companion at the Oxford Country Club. In all of these encounters, and many more, Juddi was an authentic force of nature and someone that will never be forgotten by those whose paths crossed with hers.

Thanks to all who participated in this celebration of a life and career well lived!

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