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Bontrager, Robert (1922-2014) | Morse Department of Special Collections

Name: Bontrager, Robert (1922-2014)

Historical Note:

Robert Bontrager was the only professor at Kansas State University to teach the course "The Black Press in America."  He sought to open the minds of students concerning the "struggles and achievements of the Black minority."

Bontrager received his Ph.D. in Mass Communications in 1969 from Syracuse University with a dissertation titled An Investigation of the Black Press and White Press Use Patterns in the Black Inner City of Syracuse, New York: A Field Survey.  He then became a professor in the journalism department at K-State until 1989.  Other departmental duties included being the Journalism and Mass Communications acting department head in 1972-1973 and 1979-1980, chairing the journalism school's graduate studies program from 1971 to 1989, and serving as the associate director of the journalism school from 1986 to 1989.  He was the Cruise Palmer professor of Journalism and Mass Communications for the 1984-1985 academic year.

Other duties outside the university included serving on the board of directors of Laubach Literacy International, being a judge in the national Unity Media Awards, and serving in various capacities with the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications.

In the 1970 fall term, Bontrager began teaching the first Black press course at K-State.  While teaching this course, he primarily focused on Black press materials from the Kansas City Call, particularly the editorials, and two titles from the Johnson Publishing Company, Ebony and Jet.

Bontrager retired in May 1989 and later moved to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, in 1992.

He was born in 1922, and was a 1945 graduate of Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, where he met Mable Busch, whom he married the following year.  Between 1948 and 1965, the Bontragers were missionaries in the Congo, after which they adopted two boys, Thomas and Timothy.  Mable died in Lewisburg in January 2011.

Sources: Media Services Faculty Files in the university archives and online search results.
Note Author: Kari Bingham and Cliff Hight

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