An International Legend
College of Communication remembers the late Joe W. Neal
Joe W. Neal, a former professor in the College of Communication's Department of Communication Studies at The University of Texas at Austin, passed away at his home in Austin on Jan. 14 at the age of 96.
"(My father) was very special to his immediate family and the international family – we have received many accolades from those who were affected by his encouragement and support," said Frank Neal, son of Joe W. Neal and UT alumnus. "Last Friday I met for the first time a lady who even recently was influenced by him to pursue her Ph.D. even though she was in her mid-50s. Not only that, but he had been reaching out to her while she was in Singapore. He was simply amazing."
Neal mentored many entering careers in international education or seeking educational opportunities, is credited with ushering international education to UT as a whole, and left behind a legacy of family, friends and associates. College of Communication Dean Roderick P. Hart described Neal as a man who always cared about the greater good of his department and the scholarly community at large.
"Joe was deeply devoted to The University of Texas and to its students," said Hart. "He had a passion for getting our students to go abroad and was an international Longhorn of the first order."
Graduating from Brackenridge High School in San Antonio at only age 15, Neal attended San Antonio Junior College and joined the debate team. One team that challenged his squad was from Houston and the opposition's coach, future President Lyndon B. Johnson, was so impressed with Neal that LBJ maintained contact with the young scholar through his presidency.
Neal transferred to UT shortly after, where he earned his bachelor's, master's and doctorate in government before serving from 1941 to 1972 in the U.S. Army and U.S. Army Reserve, retiring with the rank of colonel. While in the service, he became a disabled veteran when a helicopter blade almost severed his right arm. Neal married his wife, Clarice G. Hollman, while she attended UT as an international student from Brazil and enjoyed 61 years of marriage with her until her passing.
In the early 1940s, Neal worked in Washington, D.C. At one point, friends said he'd had tea with Eleanor Roosevelt. Following his service in WW II, he returned to UT and joined the Department of Government in 1946, shortly before teaching courses in international communication in the Department of Communication Studies at the College of Communication.
He launched the International Office at UT, chartered and served as president and CEO of the Texas International Education Consortium (TIEC) to promote public higher education internationally, served as director of International Programs at UT, and continued teaching until his retirement in 1995.
"He had a reputation for decisiveness and getting the job done – as someone who embodied the adage, 'where there is a will there is a way,'" said Richard A. Cherwitz, professor in the Department of Communication Studies and director of the Intellectual Entrepreneurship Consortium (IE) program at UT. "Joe worked tirelessly to bring more international students to UT and to remove the barriers preventing that."
Neal also helped form several national organizations related to international exchange programs for faculty and students, including the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs (NAFSA), the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA), and the Texas Partners of the Americas, providing him ample time for travel around the world where he met kings, queens, and heads of state.
In his spare time, Neal enjoyed entertaining family and friends at his ranch in northwest Austin known as "Horse Thief Hollow." He used the land to welcome locals, Fulbright scholars and international visitors alike, presenting them with Texas culture and the local obsession with barbecue.
Neal is survived by his sister, four children, 16 grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren, as well as an extensive extended family.
In lieu of any flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the Joe W. Neal Centennial Fellowship in International Communication, College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin, 300 W. Dean Keeton A0900, Austin, TX 78712-1069 or to Global Austin (formerly the International Hospitality Council at Austin) at 1103 W. 24th Street, Austin, Texas, 78705.