2008: Richard Johnson-Sheehan

Citation for
Richard Johnson-Sheehan
Elevated to ATTW Fellow, March 2008
(written by Stephen Bernhardt)

Dear Professor Johnson-Sheehan:

I have the pleasure of informing you that you will be made Fellow of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing at its Annual Conference in New Orleans on April 2, 2008.  During the annual business meeting at 5:30 p.m. in the Doubletree Hotel, the organization will recognize your many accomplishments and contributions to the profession of technical writing.

At each step of your career, your work has influenced practices across our profession. You have helped shape our understanding of both historical rhetoric and the rhetoric of science through important articles in Rhetoric Review, Rhetoric Society Quarterly, Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, Technical Communication, Journal of Business and Technical Communication, IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication. Importantly, in our own Technical Communication Quarterly, you have published no fewer than four articles and edited two special issues. Your book Writing Proposals (Allyn & Bacon, 2002, rpt. 2008) continues to be widely read and used both in university classrooms and by professional writers. Now in its second edition, your textbook Technical Communication Today influences a generation of teachers and students. Your work has received awards including the Frank R. Smith Outstanding Journal Article Award from the Society for Technical Communication and the NCTE Excellence Award for Best Article in Historical Research or Textual Studies in Technical and Scientific Communication.

You made your mark on important undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of New Mexico, where you served as Director of Professional Writing and Internships for five years and then as Director of Rhetoric and Writing for 3 years. As a professor, you developed a wide range of courses in management communication, science writing and rhetoric, visual rhetoric, hypertextual rhetoric, proposal and grant writing, and teaching professional writing and composition. Your teaching audience branched out to your interdisciplinary colleagues, including MBA students and health science M.D.s and Ph.D.s. in the professional programs at UNM. Your fellow faculty member Chuck Paine described you as “a wonderful person to be around,” always “willing to hash out the latest questions of rhetorical theory or department politics,”  and as someone who “never shows a trace of self-importance.” Your students have gone on to fine careers in technical and professional communication.

Now at Purdue University, you continue to make your mark. You are now Director of Introductory Composition, and we all can look forward to seeing the outcomes of your teaching and mentoring prowess as your graduate students move into the profession. Your colleague David Blakesley has fine words to describe your work at Purdue: “One of Richard Johnson-Sheehan’s endearing qualities is his ability and eagerness to collaborate with students, colleagues, and people in the community. He doesn’t collaborate in isolated ways or moments but in every aspect of his professional life as a teacher, scholar, and WPA, and—less obviously to those who don’t know him personally—in his more private life as a social activist, volunteer, and father. His spirit shows in his mentorship of graduate students seeking first publication, his commitment to shared administration across writing programs, his service to our profession, and his relentless efforts to improve the quality of our professional encounters. In short, he is deeply involved. In many respects, he is the embodiment of a public intellectual, someone always working to improve the lives of others, to teach, live, and learn with them, and we are all the better because of his commitment to us.”

Others of us have also come to admire your service ethic. You perform all manner of service obligations with an air of nonchalance and resolute good will, projecting a calm assurance that all will work out and an ironic disregard for small moments of chaos.  The bottom line is that Council of Writing Program Administrators profits from your service as Treasurer. The Society for Technical Communication was made stronger by your work as Regional Conference Chair (2000), as President of the Katrina Chapter (1999-200), as Education Director for the Chapter, and as judge in their publication competition. We benefitted directly from your serving as Co-Chair of the ATTW conferences in Chicago (2006) and Denver (2001). ATTW is indebted to you for your professional service as Editor of Special Issues, Technical Communication Quarterly, from 2000 to the present. Our journals are stronger for your editing work, and our conferences richer for your presence and your presentations.

For all these reasons, the Fellows of the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing unanimously endorse your elevation to Fellow and offer hearty congratulations on your accomplishments. We welcome you as friend and colleague, as a worthy champion of technical writing, and as someone whose recognized contributions to our profession are both meaningful and lasting.

On behalf of the ATTW Fellows,  and all those at this meeting today, we thank you for your work.