“The most compassionate person I’ve ever met” Communication Studies commemorate late professor

By Bethany Rentfro, Staff Reporter

The Communication Studies department is mourning the loss of a dear friend, colleague and professor. 

Suzanne Daughton passed away on Saturday leaving behind a legacy that her friends and former students will always remember. 

Daughton received her PhD in rhetorical studies from the University of Texas in Austin. She joined the SIU Communication Studies department in 1990 and retired in 2017. 

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Daughton co-authored two books, Modern Rhetorical Criticism (third and fourth edition) that are still used in the communication studies department today. 

Her friends, colleagues and former students are reminded of the impact Daughton made on the university and how she impacted their lives. 

Ryan Freels, a graduate student in the communication studies department, and former student of Daughton, said one word that best describes the late professor is compassionate. 

“She was an extremely sweet, kind, compassionate and warm soul,” Freels said. “She had a great sense of humor.” 

Daughton received many awards and honors, some of which include the University Women’s Professional Advancement Mentoring Award, the Feminist Teacher-Mentor award,  an outstanding teacher award and she served on 33 master’s committees according to her CV. 

Daughton was interested in political communication, gender and sexuality, women’s movements and women’s issues. 

Sandy Pensoneau-Conway, department chair for the communication studies department, said Daughton became very interested in a class at SIU called compassionate communication. 

Compassionate communication was a research area and personal practice of Daughtom. She attended several training sessions and retreats on non-violent communication and conscious living. 

“She was very interested in forms of communication that are non-violent,” Pensoneau-Conway said. “People really felt such a great sense of support around her.”

Meditation was another passion of Daughton and she often implemented those practices with her students. 

“It was a way of getting to know her and engaging with her,” Freels said. “If her students ever came to her or they were upset about something, she sat there and listened to them and talked to them.” 

Daughton built meaningful relationships with her students inside and outside of the classroom, Nilanjana Bardhan, director of graduate studies, said. Students and colleagues felt encouraged and inspired by her.

Former students of Daughton shared stories and fond memories they have from her classes, including how she went out of her way to care for the needs of her students.

“Suzanne was the kindest, most compassionate person I’ve ever met,” O.J. Duncan, a graduate student in communication studies said. 

Pensoneau-Conway said when she moved to southern Illinois in 2012, Daughton reached out to her and made her, and her family, feel welcomed. 

“Suzanne was one of the faculty members who had children around the same time [as me],” Pensoneau-Conway said. “I feel like she really paved the way for this department to be a space where families were welcome.” 

Daughton was very passionate about self-care and making sure students felt comfortable in her presence Freels and Pensoneau-Conway said. 

“No matter what the context was, no matter what the situation was, you didn’t feel like you weren’t her friend,” Freels said. “She was there to be empathetic, to be loving, to be compassionate. And it is something I want to continue in the future as well.” 

Daughton left behind her husband Nathan Stucky, her son Michael, her mother Eileen and family and friends from around the world. 

A celebration of Daughton’s life will take place on Feb. 22 at 2 p.m. at the Carbondale Unitarian Fellowship. 

Memorial contributions may be made in Daughton’s name to Heifer International,  the International Rescue Committee or the Women’s Center in Carbondale. 

Bethany Rentfro can be reached via email at [email protected]

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