Kenneth S. Devol; Journalism Professor


Kenneth S. Devol, a nationally respected journalism professor and author who taught at Cal State Northridge for 30 years, has died. He was 68.

Devol died Friday of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis at Community Hospital of Monterey Bay, according to family friend and colleague Nancy Baker-Jacobs.

A Los Angeles native, Devol received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from USC in the early 1950s. In 1965, he received his doctorate in higher education from USC.


In 1969, as recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, Devol studied journalism law and ethics at Stanford University. Fittingly, it was Devol’s journalism law and ethics classes that brought him the greatest fame, among students and colleagues alike.

“Ken Devol had a major influence on thousands of students’ lives as well as faculty,” said Cynthia Z. Rawitch, a CSUN journalism professor.

“Students always said that his mass media law class was the most difficult and most rewarding class they had at the university. He was extraordinarily respected by the world of journalism education at large. It was that respect that allowed journalism [education] to be well-respected on our campus.”

During a prolific career that spanned more than four decades, Devol served as acting associate dean of the School of Communication and Professional Studies at CSUN, as adjunct professor of journalism at USC, and as visiting professor at both San Jose State University and Cal State Fullerton. He was also chairman of the Valley College journalism department.

Devol was involved in other areas of journalism as well. In addition to numerous articles in professional journals, he wrote two journalism textbooks, one of which--”Mass Media and the Supreme Court: The Legacy of the Warren Years”--is widely used in media law classes throughout the United States.

Devol’s career included stints as a reporter and editor for several newspapers and as a publicist for the Hollywood Bowl and Los Angeles city schools.


In 1984, Devol was voted Outstanding Journalism Professor by the California Newspaper Publishers Assn. The following year, he received CSUN’s Distinguished Professor Award.

Devol was a past president of the Assn. for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, the American Assn. of Schools and Departments of Journalism, and the Western Assn. of University Publications managers.

He was a founder of the CSUN chapter of Kappa Tau Alpha (the national honorary journalism society), which in his honor was named the Devol chapter in 1996. In honor of his years of service to the university, CSUN also established the Kenneth S. Devol First Amendment Speakers Series upon Devol’s retirement in 1991.

“He built the department,” said Tom Reilly, chair of the CSUN Department of Journalism. “He had incredible standards, ethics and a sense of how important the 1st Amendment was to the average person, and everything he did was to try to support that.”

Devol is survived by his wife, Shirley, of Carmel Valley; daughter, Sharon Devol of Canyon Country; son, Randall Devol of Mountain View, and granddaughter, Nicole Devol of Hanford.

There will be no funeral service.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be sent to the Department of Journalism Scholarship Fund, CSUN, Northridge, 91330-8311 or the Mineral King District Assn.--which helps support the state park where Devol had a cabin--at Box 2621, Mill Valley, CA 94942.