It is with great sorrow that RSA announces the passing of Dr. Janice Lauer Rice on April 7, 2021. Dr. Lauer was a founding member of RSA who served on the Board of directors twice, from 1978 – 1982 and again from 1985 – 1989. In his history of RSA, S. Michael Halloran called Lauer “a pioneer” who attended the first meeting of a loosely formed RSA that took place at the 1968 Conference on College Composition and Communication in Minneapolis. She was instrumental in the growth of both RSA and the contemporary discipline of rhetoric itself. Halloran shares:
She was also part of a meeting that turned out to be particularly important in the development of our understanding of rhetoric and composition as an intellectually substantial field, a 1976 gathering at the University of Wyoming’s “Science Camp,” organized by [Dick] Young, [Ross] Winterowd, and John Warnock. (p. 236)
In 1980, Dr. Lauer joined Purdue University where she founded one of the first doctoral programs in a “new” field in English, Rhetoric and Composition. By the time she retired from Purdue in 2003, the program had over 200 doctoral graduates. During her teaching and scholarly career, she directed the Cranbrook Writers Conference and offered a two-week international summer Rhetoric Seminar for professors for thirteen years. Dr. Lauer directed and taught in Purdue’s Rhetoric and Composition Program for 23 years, which included directing 57 dissertations. She wrote numerous books and essays in rhetoric as well as lectured extensively about the writing process as inquiry.
A Distinguished Professor, she received many awards during her career including an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas; the College Composition and Communication Conference’s Exemplar Award; Purdue’s School of Liberal Arts’ Excellence in Education Award; a Hopwood Award at the University of Michigan, and the Rhetoric Society of America’s Distinguished Service Award.
Parlor Press launched the Lauer Series in Rhetoric and Composition at her retirement party at CCCC in 2003. The series is still going strong, and Dr. Lauer was always involved in conversations about new and exciting work in the series. The day after her death, one of the books in her series, Creole Composition, was awarded the 2021 CCCC Best Book Award.
As formidable as her scholarship was, Dr. Lauer’s service was equally impressive. She served, for example as Coordinator of the Consortium of Rhetoric and Composition Doctoral Programs, as Executive Committee member of the National Council of Teachers of English and, of course, as a member (twice) of the Board of Directors of Rhetoric Society of America.
Dedicated to students and to the future of the discipline of rhetoric, in 2011 Dr. Lauer endowed the “Janice Lauer Fund for Graduate Student Support” at RSA to support graduate student participation and achievement in RSA. As a result, in 2022 and years to come, Dr. Lauer’s legacy of generosity and commitment to the field of rhetoric will support graduate students of color to attend the RSA Biennial Conference in Baltimore. She will be greatly missed.
The following sources were consulted in the composition of this remembrance: Halloran’s “The Growth of the Rhetoric Society of America: An Anecdotal History” (RSQ , 48.3) and the Purdue University College of Liberal Arts website.