- May 16, 2012
- 11:51 am
Fond farewell to Sammy Danna
When Sammy Danna was an undergraduate student at University of Louisiana-Monroe studying speech, drama, and radio-television education, he remembers being stressed over a play he was to present in class. However, he also remembers what his professor said that helped him put the assignment in perspective, words that he has kept with him for his 50+ year career.
“[He said] ‘You know what? About 90 percent of the things that people worry about don’t come to pass’…I remember him saying that and not believing him at the time,” he laughs. “But now I look back and have to come to the realization that enough is enough. Most of the worries will not come to pass.”
Danna would know. After 43 years as a professor at Loyola, Sammy Danna, PhD, professor of communication, is retiring. Aside from educating countless Loyola students in communication, advertising, public speaking, and media law classes, both as a part-time and full professor (beginning in 1980), Danna helped launch WLUW-FM 88.7 in the late 1970s, and he is the author of more than 70 articles, monographs, and book chapters.
Danna not only contributed valuable work at Loyola, he also taught journalism, speech, and drama at two high schools in Monroe, Louisiana (his hometown), taught speech 101 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois State University-Normal, and Quincy University, and he taught the first radio/television course at Quincy as well. In addition to teaching others, he gained a PhD in speech and drama from the University of Missouri-Columbia, and three master’s degrees: a MA from Louisiana State University in speech, drama, and radio-television education, a MEd from University of Louisiana at Monroe in secondary and higher education, and a MDiv from the Catholic Theological Union in ministerial theology, here in Chicago.
Though Danna says he has been through a lot during his long career, in hindsight, it has been a success.
“There have been ups and downs, let’s make no bones about that, as there have been with anybody’s careers and life and marriages or whatever,” he says. “But overall it has been a grand experience.”
Many of those ups and downs have come with one of his most notable achievements at Loyola: helping launch WLUW-FM, and remaining the faculty advisor to the station until 1994. Danna helped produce Loyola’s original two radio stations, WLUC, a closed carrier station at the Lake Shore Campus and WLT, a closed circuit station at the Water Tower Campus, but devoted a good amount of time, money, and energy to bringing WLUW to life in 1979. He put up some of his own money to find a station, supervised the construction of the radio antennae and studio (when it was in Lewis Towers), and acted as director of the station for two years after its inception. Danna says it was tough to get students initially interested in participating in the station, since the programming started a little slow, mostly with symphonic music and religious programs. As the station format evolved, however, more students got involved and began to prosper, including Wayne Magdziarz.
Magdziarz, who is the current Loyola chief of staff and vice president of capital planning, was the general manager of WLUW in the 1980s, and says Danna was an irreplaceable advisor.
“Dr. Danna has always had a passion for student learning. Whether in the classroom or outside of it, his genuine commitment to his students and their success at Loyola was always his top priority,” says Madgziarz. “Loyola has been lucky to have him!”
Danna says the feeling is mutual.
“[The best part has] really been the students, and knowing many of the students well,” Danna says. “What I’ve been able to give them, which I found out is more than I thought, over the years…at the same time that they have in turn imparted a lot more to me than I’ve been able to give to them.”
Now, however, Danna is giving back to himself. After teaching one last public speaking course next fall, he plans to go home to Louisiana to “wind down a bit,” as well as focus on his next few projects. He is currently compiling the history of WLUW, writing books on women’s health marketer Lydia Pinkham, a history of the soda fountain, and the changing image in men in advertising. All are extensions of papers he presented at the National Association of Pop Culture conference.
As someone with a career that spans half a century, and a legacy at Loyola to boot, what would Danna tell someone hoping to follow in his shoes? He says the key is to take off the stress, and focus on what is achievable.
“The whole world is not dependent on you,” he says. “Do what you can do, and go from there.”
Danna’s retirement party will be held May 24 in the School of Communication, 51 E. Pearson. The reception will run from 5:30-7 p.m. The reception is free to attend, and open to communication alumni, former students, and WLUW alumni. To register for the reception, and to submit your favorite memory of Professor Danna, please click here.