In Memory of Steve Chaffee



I first met Steve in August, 1983. He was strolling around the Communication Department at Stanford where I had just been admitted to the Ph.D. program. Steve was dressed¾typically¾in slacks, a knit shirt, boat shoes, I think, and no socks. He greeted me as if he were a graduate student with a few extra miles on him, rather than as one of the world’s most renowned communication scholars.


Steve had a unique way of being intimate and available to his students that was disarming.  He played volleyball with us. He came to our parties. You could share your life with him. He was interested. He didn’t have to rely on distance to establish authority¾or in his case, a certain awe. You always felt privileged¾gifted¾to have his attention.


When I asked him to lend his name to Grade the News a few years ago, he said something like: If you’re crazy enough to do this, I guess the least I can do is support you. He was a member of the original Advisory Board. And support me, he did. If you look among the articles on this site, you’ll see his name, particularly on any story about polling.


The last time I spoke to Steve was just last month. I was picking his brain about a project. Typically, he was calling up research across several disciplines from his astonishing memory banks. And I was feeling lucky to have him as a scholar-friend.


Steve was just 66. I assumed I would have him for years to come. I am still stunned by his sudden loss, as are many around the world. Most of all, I am deeply grateful for his life.


            ¾John McManus


 Photo Credit: Stanford News Service