Richard Massa, a founder and longtime head of the Department of Communication at Missouri Southern State University, died Sunday, March 17, following a lengthy illness.

“We often hear that we stand on the shoulders of giants,” said Dr. Alan Marble, president of Missouri Southern. “On the campus of MSSU, there was no greater giant than Mr. Massa.”

A 1950 graduate of Joplin High School, Massa earned his degree in journalism at the University of Missouri and began his teaching career in its School of Journalism. He also served in the military and taught in Mississippi and Oklahoma before returning to Missouri.

“I always thought it was wonderful that after being away from Joplin for 22 years, he came home to leave his mark on the university and the city,” said Dr. Chad Stebbins, director of MSSU’s Institute of Internal Studies. “He was proud of being from Joplin, and even though he had graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism, he thought highly of Joplin Junior College and the journalism program that Cleetis Headlee had established.”

Massa joined the MSSU faculty in 1972 as an associate professor of journalism and advisor to The Chart, the student newspaper. From 1979-80, he served as interim head of the Department of Language and Literature and then as acting head of the Department of English.

He helped create the Department of Communications in 1980, and served as head of the department for 19 years. During his tenure, the campus radio station KXMS was founded as well as television station KGCS. He was also instrumental in the creation of the university’s Institute of International Studies, serving as its first director until his retirement in 1999.

Massa was recognized with the Outstanding Teacher Award in 1982, and received the Missouri Governor’s Award for Excellence in Education in 1982. In 2001, he received Missouri Southern’s Broadcast Pioneer Award for his achievements in telecommunications and was named to The Chart’s Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2017, former student established an endowed scholarship in his name.

“His real legacy is the thousands of students he taught at four different universities,” said Stebbins. “His former students still talk about his demands for perfection and passion in their work and everything they do.

“He was a pioneer and the most intelligent person I have ever met. There will never be anyone else like him.”

Massa’s contributions to Missouri Southern and its students created a lasting legacy at the university, said Marble.

“He will be missed, and his influence and positive impact will be felt for generations to come,” he said.