Chuck Scott, 91: Legendary Photography Editor, OU Professor

Chuck Scott, the center of a large four-generation family at Thanksgiving in 2014, along with Christina Baird, Stone Jane Eiler, Addie Helmke, Andrew Ocean Eiler, Terry Eiler, Lyntha Scott Eiler, Tom Scott, Natalie Scott Esky, and Kathie Reed Scott. Photograph courtesy of Terry Eiler
Chuck Scott, the center of a large four-generation family at Thanksgiving in 2014, along with Christina Baird, Stone Jane Eiler, Addie Helmke, Andrew Ocean Eiler, Terry Eiler, Lyntha Scott Eiler, Tom Scott, Natalie Scott Esky, and Kathie Reed Scott. Photograph courtesy of Terry Eiler

ATHENS, OH (November 20, 2015) – Charles Lewis (Chuck) Scott, 91, died this morning at his home in Athens surrounded by his Athens family and under the care of his personal aides, hospice care, and his family. 

Terry Eiler, Scott's son-in-law, said the legendary photography editor and visual journalism professor died after a lengthy struggle with multiple organ failure.

Scott was Professor Emeritus and cofounder of the internationally recognized School of Visual Communication (VisCom) within the Scripps College of Communication at Ohio University. He was recruited to Ohio University for the first time in 1969 to expand the visual education program in the School of Journalism. He earned a master's degree in journalism in 1970 before taking a picture editor's position at The Chicago Tribune in 1974. He returned to Ohio University in 1976 in the College of Communication and in 1978 cofounded the Institute of Visual Communication with Eiler, a shared program between the College of Fine Arts and the College of Communication. In 1986 the institute became a stand-alone School of Visual Communication (VisCom), eventually being moved completely into the College of Communication in the 1990’s.

"Chuck Scott was bigger than life. He drove the bus like he owned the store," J. Bruce Baumann said. "His leadership over the years influenced dozens of talented visual journalists that would not have been so talented without him — including me. The Pittsburgh Conference soared in the 1980s when Chuck drove his Mercedes camper to the front door of the conference hotel, filled with Mac computers that elevated the layout and design portion of the three-day conference from proportion wheels and pica poles to the new digital age. I asked him if he had permission to move that much hardware out of the school, and his response was, along with that sly smile that projected confidence, 'Nobody will notice. It’s the weekend.'"

"He taught me that teaching was as valuable as working at one paper. Chuck said influencing hundreds of young journalists who would go out and make changes in the real world in hundreds of newspapers, was better than changing one newspaper at a time. I tried both and agreed with him, but it was Chuck who spent his years walking the walk, and preparing the next generation of visual journalists. If you were lucky enough to spend a day with him it changed your life. I was one of the lucky ones."

Former National Geographic photography director Rich Clarkson said Scott was "the consummate picture editor."

"At the Milwaukee Journal, I was privileged to share a number of tasks with him including judging at Pictures of the Year several times," Clarkson said. "When he took all that enthusiasm to a formal teaching post, it was the students who found a most effective teacher – a real gem who must have always been destined to teach. He was a major influence on so many lives and careers and photojournalism as we know it today."

National Geographic photographer Steve Raymer, who is now a professor at Indiana University, first encountered Scott at The Milwaukee Journal.

"I was the summer intern at the Journal and Chuck was my first real boss," Raymer remembers. "He left me in charge of the picture desk one day and took the photo staff to the Wisconsin State Fair. It turned out to be the afternoon of the Texas Tower shooter [Charles Whitman] massacre in 1966. I had to come up with a new front page picture and caption and a new picture page after they stopped the presses.

"Chuck was the ultimate coach and teacher, explaining the next day what I had done well and where I needed work, including on caption writing. I hung on every word. But in the end, he had nothing but praise and told me that afternoon would be a war story worth retelling, on how I learned the value of being decisive and relying on the training I'd received. Thanks, Chuck. You were a wonderful teacher."

Some of Scott's former students attested to the influence he had on their lives and careers. Seattle-based photojournalist Natalie Fobes remembers the life-changing experience of meeting Scott.

"Chuck helped make me the photographer, and person, I am today," she told News Photographer magazine.

"Chuck was an important influence in my early career. I studied architecture for three years at Iowa State University. I took a photo course when I was a sophomore. I liked it but the instructor was a fine art photographer. I took a second course when I was a junior. My instructor was Dr. Bill Gillette. He opened my eyes to photojournalism and suggested that I go to Missouri, Indiana or Ohio. Sight unseen, I chose Ohio University because Chuck Scott was there."

Fobes quit Iowa State and worked two jobs for nine months to pay for tuition, room and board, and to buy camera equipment. 

"It was with great hope and great fear that I walked into Chuck’s office that first week of January. I had never met him ... and there he was, sitting in front of his desk full of papers. The legend! I showed him 12 prints that were mounted on gray boards. One photo was of my cat. Another was a set-up shot of me with an umbrella. Others included cross-country ski tracks in the snow, a silhouette of a man with a sun-burst in his face, and a couple of trees. 

"Chuck flipped through them quickly. He then pushed his glasses on his head, and asked 'Do you want to be a rocks and trees photographer, or get paid for your photos before you’re dead?' His smile and the twinkle in his eye were the only things keeping me from sinking to the floor. He said, 'Frankly, Natalie, these are rocks and trees photos. But I think you’ve got an eye, so let’s see what we can do.”

Former National Geographic photography director David Griffin remembers the day he met Scott at Ohio University.

"I had been at OU for one year, in the art photo program. And one day our photo history class was handed over to Chuck, who had just come back to the school after a stint at The Chicago Tribune. This bear of a man flipped through a pile of dog-eared 16x20 prints of car accidents, house fires, and sports action and boasted of his bold achievements in the use of images at various midwest newspapers.

“'This picture ran 22 inches deep, it was the largest color photo ever published in a newspaper,' he told us with with a gleeful smile. Once he had regaled us with all manner of stories of adventures in photojournalism, he delivered his pitch: 'Now you all can stay here and take pictures of rocks and trees, or you can come join me over in the school of journalism and I’ll guarantee you a job that will put dinner on the table for your family.' Chuck had me at the first 16x20," Griffin remembers.

Griffin said that back then, Scott needed to "round-up" whomever was interested in photojournalism to build the foundation of what would eventually grow to become the renowned VisCom program. "That meant that our small, rag-tag class received very close attention by Chuck. He was a father figure to many of us, and we all strived to make images that elicited a twinkle in his eye and the treasured affirmation of 'nice snap.' Chuck was never one for subtlety in how he taught. His idea of page design was to pick the best image and make it as big as possible (and 'move that to engraving right away') and then figure out the rest of the page later. He was a blunt instrument. But what meant more to me than any other aspect of learning from Chuck was his infectious and unrelenting drive. His work ethic was determined, competitive, but always fun and never mean. That quality has been an inspiration to me for all of my career."

Scott was born August 18, 1924, in Grayville, Illinois. He was a Photographer’s Mate First Class in the U.S. Navy, having graduated from the their photography school, the photolithography school, and the vectorgraphy school in Pensacola. He received the Distinguished Flying Cross, three air medals, and other decorations for his heroic war efforts in the Pacific.  

After the Navy he earned a degree from the University of Illinois in 1948 while stringing as a photojournalist for the Champaign-Urbana Courier and the student newspaper. He started his career as a photographer for the Illinois Natural History Survey before briefly joining Acme Newpictures in their Chicago Bureau.

Scott was then a staff photographer for the Binghamton (NY) Press in 1951, the chief photographer for the Champaign-Urbana (IL) Courier in 1953, and a staff photographer for Carl Bays Associates in 1956.

Moving to larger newspapers, Scott was the assistant picture editor and then picture editor of The Milwaukee Journal from 1956 to 1966. Then he was named the first graphic director for the Chicago Daily News. Roy M. Fisher, then editor of the Daily News and later the Dean of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, said that appointing Scott director of graphics recognized the arrival of a new era in journalism.

“A modern newspaper must use photographs, drawings, and design as integral parts of it full report,” Fisher said. “Mr. Scott will plan and direct the Daily news effort toward this objective.”  

Scott's efforts at the Daily News were recognized when the National Press Photographers Association named him the Newspaper Editor of the Year in 1966. Scott’s staff won more than 140 national and local awards from 1966 to 1969. The photographers included Don Bierman, Gary Settle, and Perry Riddle. Settle and Riddle won the NPPA’s Photographer of the Year titles in 1968, 1969, and 1970. As a working photographer, Scott won more than 100 awards in state, regional, national and international competitions. In 1952 he won the grand prize (Photographer of the Year) in NPPA’s annual competition, and he won the LOOK magazine sports picture contest that year. 

He was a charter member of NPPA (1946) and he received NPPA’s Kenneth P. McLaughlin Award (1970), the Joseph A. Sprague Award (1975) and the Robin Garland Photojournalism Educator Award (1979). He founded and directed five Newsphoto Conferences for Editors at Ohio University, working with 118 newspapers from 28 states and produced pioneering consulting work in picture editing and visual design with 30 newspapers from Florida to Alaska.

“His proudest educational legacies are the students and professionals that he and worked with and educated about the demands of accurate candid visual journalism,” Eiler said.

Scott was a member of the Ohio News Photographers Association, The Society of Professional Journalist (Sigma Delta Chi), The National Journalism Honorary (Kappa Tau Alpha), and the National Photojournalism Honorary (Kappa Alpha Mu).

He was preceded in death by his first spouse, Jane Turner Scott, and his brother, Dr. Merrill Scott (Roberta). He is survived by his spouse Martha McDonald, children Lyntha Eiler (Terry), Tom Scott (Kathie) of Athens, and Martha’s children, Dr. Betty Masten (Jeff) of Durham, NC; Marion Williams (Mark) of New York City; Dr. William McDonald of Boston; and Andrew (Scott) McDonald, (Erica) of Seattle, WA. In addition he is survived by his brother Dr. Alan Scott (Marilyn & Lillian) of Austin, TX. He is survived by his grandchildren: Andrew Eiler (Addison), Christina Eiler Baird (Timothy), Natalie Scott Eskey (Trent), Samantha Scott Porter (Max), Andrew Masten, Margaux Masten, Abigail Masten, Scott Williams, Lauren Williams, Christopher Williams and his great-grand daughter Stone Jane Helmke Eiler.

Scott was a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens, OH, and the funeral arrangements and viewing for family and friends (time and dates are still pending) with be held at the Jagers Brothers Funeral Home in Athens. Internment will be at the Alexander cemetery. A celebration of his life will be planned for the spring of 2016 in Athens. 

The family is grateful to Natalie Springle, Cassie Bolin and the numerous aides from the Appalachian Community Visiting Nurses and Hospice and Interim for their help throughout this journey.

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