‘Father of CMU journalism’ Gilbert Maienknecht dies at 94

Founder of CMU's Department of Journalism Gilbert Maienknecht in 2002 Courtesy photo | University Communitcations

Founder of CMU’s Department of Journalism Gilbert Maienknecht in 2002
Courtesy photo | University Communitcations

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct an inaccuracy. 

Gilbert Otto Maienknecht, dubbed the father of Central Michigan University’s journalism department, died Monday at the age of 94.

According to a biography found on the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame website, Maienknecht came to CMU as the director of publicity in 1948. By 1959, he was named the founding chairman of the department of journalism. In that position, Maienknecht expanded the program to total 320 students with signed journalism majors, 180 with signed minors and 10 faculty members. He retired in 1982.

Maienknecht received a Gold Anniversary Award from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association in 1971 and a national award for contributions to education in journalism in 1974. He was also the inaugural inductee to the CMU Journalism Hall of Fame in 2002.

Maienknecht, raised in the Upper Peninsula, earned his bachelor’s degree at Northern Michigan University, two master’s degrees in journalism and education at the University of Iowa, and a doctor of education degree in education-journalism at Indiana University.

He then enlisted in the Army during World War II, where he fought in several battles, including the D-Day invasion of Normandy, according to his obituary, before becoming a reporter at the Green Bay Gazette and then working at CMU.



  1. Kendall Wingrove says:

    Dr. Maienknecht was a gentleman and a scholar. It was a privilege to be in his classroom. Generations of journalism students at CMU owe him a debt of gratitude.

  2. Jerry Fitzhenry says:

    Gil hired me in 1967. His character is reflected in the way he signed his correspondence: “Kindest regards.”

    Jerry Fitzhenry, Professor Emeritus, Journalism.

  3. michmediaperson says:

    It’s a shame that no one from the CMU Journalism Department, including the Department Chairman, the Dean of the School and George Ross bothered to even comment on one of the finest CMU people in the school’s history. Really sad. Kendall is right. He was a gentleman. He was the perfect college professor and department chair.

    No press release from the CMU PR department about Gil’s passing. No comment from the Journalism Department.

    Jerry was right about his character. Gil built the best journalism department in the state and one of the finest nationally. However, because of the political correctness now in the journalism department, it’s no longer the best J-school in Michigan. MSU has regained the lead.

    The CMU PR folks took time to do a release on zombies through religion and a hyphenated-American month. But, I guess all those people including the PR Lady do not have time to write a press release and put a memorial on the CMU home page to honor the man who built a department from scratch at CMU.
    He spent decades at CMU and where is any comment from the journalism department?

    Really a sad day to be a CMU Chippewa.

    At least, CM LIFE wrote a couple paragraphs about him. But, he deserves more than that.

  4. Donald Allport Bird, Ph.D. says:

    Gil hired me and gave me m first full-time job in 1972. He consistently demonstrated outstanding vision, perseverance, tolerance and character. Even with some difficult faculty. His students loved him and he produced many, many industry leaders. For example, one became the publisher of The Indiannapolis Star, another headed the Midwestern operations for The Associated Press, another worked for the The Washington Post and came back to run the Jackson, MI newspaper. Today, another is an award-winning features writer at the Tampa Trubune. For these reasons, I returned in 2002 from New York in order to honor him during his his Hall of Fame induction.

    Unfortunately, late in life he had to bury his son Gil and wife Fran.

    The world is a much better place because he led us and showed us the way. The world certainly needs more Gil Mainknechts! I gained so much from him and am learning new things about him all the time. For example, I now sorely regret I didn’t know about his involvement in D-Day so we could have talked.

    Thanks, Gil!

    Donald Allport Bird, Ph.D.
    Professor of Journalism
    Department of Journalism and Communication Studies
    Long Island University, Brooklyn

    (CMU Department of Journalism, 1972-1976)

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