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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Remembering Roosenraad: Beloved UF faculty member left impact on students, colleagues and family

Journalism professor emeritus Jon A. Roosenraad died at age 78

Sam Dolson, left, and Jon Roosenraad look at the list of graduates in Weimer Hall during the 1992 Spring graduation.
Sam Dolson, left, and Jon Roosenraad look at the list of graduates in Weimer Hall during the 1992 Spring graduation.

Jon A. Roosenraad, or “Rosey” as he was affectionately called by family and friends, was known for the way he enjoyed life and supported everyone he crossed paths with.

The 78-year-old UF professor emeritus died of natural causes Sept. 13. 

William McKeen, a 69-year-old Boston University journalism professor who previously worked at UF, said Roosenraad’s Halloween and tailgate parties were something to remember.

One that stuck out in McKeen’s mind was the Halloween party Roosenraad hosted during McKeen’s first year in Florida. McKeen went dressed in drag as one of Charlie’s Angels, he said.

“My wife says, ‘You don’t really know this guy, and you’re dressed in drag,’” he said. “‘You can just kiss tenure goodbye.’”

Little did he know that Roosenraad would have a similar idea. When Roosenraad greeted him at the door, he was also dressed in drag, he said.

McKeen said he also attended several concerts with Roosenraad to see artists like The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan.

“He enjoyed life,” he said. “It was impossible to be around him and not pick up on that.”

Roosenraad worked with the UF College of Journalism and Communications since 1968 when he was hired at the age of 23, UF wrote in a statement

He served as the chair of the department of journalism and assistant dean of student services over the years.

After retiring in 2006, Roosenraad continued to teach journalism, reporting and editing courses up until his passing.

Roosenraad was also involved with Campus Communications and The Alligator for over 20 years, leading him to be inducted into The Alligator Hall of Fame.

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The former professor left a positive impact on many of his students.

For Mary Shedden, a 56-year-old 1990 UF journalism alumna, Roosenraad helped encourage her to continue her education despite Shedden facing financial troubles.

“He really played a huge role in keeping me in school,” she said. “There was a time when I was basically out of money and was going to drop out … He found a job within the journalism school and suggested I apply for it.”

Were it not for Roosenraad and his advice, Shedden would have dropped out, she said.

“I gained confidence in myself as a journalist,” she said. “I sit here after 30 years, more than 30 years later, and I’m still a working journalist and really proud of it.”

Sam Dolson, a 60-year-old 1992 UF journalism alum, struggled academically. Roosenraad helped keep him on target to graduate even when Dolson left Gainesville for a few years, he said.

“I credit John for, before I left, helping me understand and while I was gone, keeping me focused. And then when I got back … [he] put me on the right track to get through the school part of it,” he said. “It was invaluable to me.”

Dolson is one of many students who were influenced by Roosenraad and his guidance, he said.

“My story on that part is not unique,” he said. “The dude was just there for everybody.”

Shedden and Dolson both commended “Rosey” for having a humorous and fun-loving personality while still maintaining his expectations and principles.

“He was a very smart academic, but he never took himself too seriously,” Shedden said. “He knew how to laugh, he knew how to have a good time, but he never compromised his standards.”

Roosenraad’s peers and colleagues also respected his work ethic and willingness to help others. 

Ted Spiker, the chair of the UF department of journalism, said Roosenraad was always there to aid and support his students.

“So many alums have told me that they wouldn’t be where they are today if it wasn’t for Rosey — because he always knew exactly how to help students get out of a jam,” he wrote. “He was a great teacher and administrator, and he always cared about students succeeding.”

Roosenraad served as McKeen’s administrative model. 

Tasks like annual evaluations and reports were often tedious, but Roosenraad dealt with them well, he said.

“You always felt really good about going to work,” McKeen said. “He just had a really good collegial atmosphere.”

McKeen reflected on the morning routine he had with Roosenraad and other faculty members when he worked at UF. He wanted staff to set an example by being well-informed, he said.

“We’d meet in Rosey’s office, have some coffee and read The New York Times together,” he said.

When McKeen was going to be on his own for Thanksgiving one year, Roosenraad invited him over to celebrate with him and his family, he said.

“He said, ‘The cost of admission is a green bean casserole,’ so I made this green bean casserole called a nuclear green bean casserole,” McKeen said. “He loved it so much that he would ask me every Thanksgiving to make it and then give it to him so that he could try to convince people that he had made the casserole.”

Kim Moffitt, Roosenraad’s daughter, has many memories of her father helping her with homework, going on “father/daughter walks” together and taking family trips in the summer.

“He would make out itineraries and loved reading maps and planning the driving routes,” she wrote.

Moffitt said her father had a companionable personality.

“He truly was a great person who treated others as he hoped to be treated,” she wrote. “He always had a smile on his face and loved talking to others.”

Contact Bailey Diem at Follow her on Twitter @BaileyDiem. 

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Bailey Diem

Bailey Diem is a first-year journalism major at UF and is the Santa Fe Reporter for The Alligator for Fall 2023. When not reporting, Bailey can be found playing guitar or getting lost in a book.

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