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A life well lived: In memory of Bud Goodall

Bud Goodall
August 28, 2012

H.L. “Bud” Goodall, Jr., passed away on Aug. 24 after a 15-month struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was 59.

A professor of communication at Arizona State University, Goodall was a celebrated scholar and a narrative ethnographer who chronicled the “mysteries” and complexities of communication in relationships, the workplace, and in the national imagination. 

“Bud helped usher in a new way of knowing and representing communication across the discipline and paved the way for generations of scholars to write about and respond to the emerging communication challenges of our times,” said Angela Trethewey, director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  

A prolific author, Goodall published nine scholarly books, including an award-winning ethnographic memoir, "A Need to Know: The Clandestine History of a CIA Family" (2006, Left Coast Press), "Writing Qualitative Inquiry: Self, Stories, and Academic Life" (2008, Left Coast Press), and "Master Narratives of Islamist Extremism" with professors Jeff Halverson and Steve Corman (2011, Palgrave). He also penned numerous textbooks, white papers, book chapters, book reviews and trade books, including a cookbook designed to encourage cross-gendered conversations called, "Food Talk: A Man’s Guide to Cooking and Conversation with Women."

And while colleagues point to Goodall as an inspirational and transformative force in the international discipline of communication, they also talk about his ability to create an environment where students and faculty were moved to ask big questions, requiring multi-perspective, multi-method and multi-layered involvement.

As director of the Hugh Downs School from 2004 to 2009, he worked to elevate the research profile and the national reputation of his school and his university. He oversaw degree programs with 2,000 majors, 900 minors and 100 graduate students; established freshman seminars; expanded alumni contacts; contributed to diversity initiatives; and created “Professor of Practice” positions, to advance the transfer of practical business and new media skills to undergraduates and transfer of scientific and humanistic forms of academic scholarship into the public sphere.

He also created a Communication Majors Club, a chapter of Lambda Pi Eta (National Honor Society in Communication), and established the annual Hugh Downs Award for Communication Excellence, which recognized Larry King and Stephen Spielberg.

Goodall also was instrumental in creating the Center for Strategic Communication, the first ABOR-approved research center in the school’s history, which was honored by the Applied/Public Policy Research Award from the International Communication Association.

Named a 2012 Outstanding Professor, and listed in Who’s Who in Social Sciences Higher Education, Goodall asked his colleagues and students to think of themselves as public scholars – to take seriously the charge to make the very best of communication scholarship available to a variety of audiences by telling important, engaging and relevant stories in the context of white papers, academic publications and blogs. Among his 43 scholarly articles are themes of spirituality, human rights, family history, language theory, cultural identity and modern tribal ritual.

Goodall pulled readers into his journey of discovery from the very first line, as in the early piece, “Deep play in a poker rally: A Sunday among the Ferraristi of Long Island,” where he writes: “I do not own a Ferrari … so when Craig invites me up to Long Island to participate in a Ferrari poker rally he is organizing in early June, and adds that he will loan me one of his cars to drive in it, I don’t think twice. Life is short. I am a sports car guy. I have never driven a Ferrari. What would you do?” 

You go along for the ride – even as Goodall narrated his own very personal experience with pancreatic cancer, or what he called his “journey through Cancerland,” his academic blog “The Daily Narrative” offered readers from around the world conceptual tools, drawn from narrative and communication scholarship, and the opportunity to imagine themselves anew, even in the face of a terminal diagnosis.

From the last blog post he wrote: “The only thing we do know for sure is that today is ours for the making, for the doing, for the loving, for the caring and sharing and daring. Offer up your prayers for others and open up yourself to receive the blessings of the universe. End each day with the personal heartfelt thanks to others that you would want to be said at the end of your days, and you will never end your days without that sense of thanks you wanted to say and you hope to hear echo through that long last night."

"Bud Goodall's steadfast cheerfulness in the face of full knowledge of his condition and with no hint of denial is extremely unusual if not unique,” said Hugh Downs. “As a superb writer, analytical thinker, administrator and helpful friend, he was a mentor to me during his last few years, and his wisdom will continue to guide me for the rest of my life."

“Bud’s influence will persist and grow because he continues to, through his lasting work, invite us all to join him in both imagining and practicing a life well lived,” added Trethewey. “And when he says 'a better life is possible,' his enthusiasm, his joie de vivre, his hearty appetite for living well, is impossible to resist. And we are all better for it.” 

Goodall’s colleagues from across the discipline recently published the volume "Celebrating Bud: A Festschrift in Honor of the Life & Work of H.L. "Bud" Goodall, Jr."

Goodall is survived by his wife, Sandra Goodall, and son, Nicolas.