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The life and legacy of Professor Louis John Wolter

Courtesy of Drake University Archives and Special Collections

Louis John Wolter, a longtime professor and educator at Drake University, died at the age of 93 while vacationing in Florida on Feb. 22, 2023. 

Wolter was born in Western Springs, Illinois, to Louis Edward Wolter and Ottilie L. Wolter on Nov. 27, 1929. He served in the United States Air Force for four years after high school and then went off to college. He received his undergraduate degree and Master of Science in Journalism from Northwestern University. He then went to the University of Iowa, where he received his doctorate. 

Wolter was a vital part of the Drake University community, having taught advertising, mass communication and public relations for over 20 years – holding many different roles within his time at Drake. While at Drake, he served as the Acting Dean for the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Director of University Marketing, and the Director of the Small Business Development Center for some time. 

Todd Evans, a professor emeritus at Drake University, was able to work with Wolter, describing him as one of the good guys. 

“Lou Wolter was on the search committee that recruited me to join the SJMC faculty in 1984. From our first meeting until his retirement, he was a steady and positive role model,” Evans said. “Students always came first and colleagues were treated like family. There were those on faculty, myself included, who referred to him kindly and reverentially as ‘Uncle Lou.’” 

Wolter was a faculty member that was always there for his students, wanting to help them grow within their successes and same with his colleagues. He brought a lot of energy and enthusiasm within his position, always welcoming of his colleagues and other faculty members. Wolter was one to bring positive energy into the room, even when morale was low due to budget cuts or changes back in the 70s and 80s. 

Wolter was also very involved within the surrounding Des Moines community. He was the President of Directions Inc., a marketing research firm. He also served on various boards and committees, such as the Advertising Professionals of Des Moines, Generations Inc. and Planned Parenthood. 

In addition, Wolter was a motivational speaker who traveled nationally to speak on public relations and he co-authored a book with Robert Wohl. The book was entitled, “Navigating Organizations Through the Twenty-First Century; A Metaphor for Leadership.”

In the last few years, especially after retiring, he spent time with his wife, Carolyn Lumbard, traveling down to New Mexico and Florida and always making time for family, friends and their dogs. Wolter was able to impact so many lives, whether that be on Drake University’s campus or in the various communities around him. Wolter will forever be remembered for the work that he has done for the Drake University community, touching lives of all those around him. 

 A celebration of life will be scheduled at a later date and instead of sending flowers, consider making donations in his name to Iowa PBS, World Central Kitchen or the Drake University SJMC.


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