Dr. Gene Wiggins, a professor emeritus in The University of Southern Mississippi School of Mass Communication and Journalism, died Thursday, Feb. 21 at his home in Hattiesburg. He was 69.
Funeral and memorial arrangements for Dr. Wiggins will be announced later.
Dr. Wiggins joined the Southern Miss faculty in 1973. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Miss and his Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale. Prior to completing his doctorate, he worked as a professional journalist for the Jackson Daily News and for the Hattiesburg American. He also served as a public information officer in the U.S. Air Force.
“This is a huge loss. Dr. Wiggins had a really powerful impact on literally thousands of students,” said Dr. Chris Campbell, director of the school and one of Wiggins’ former students. “He basically devoted his professional life to the university.”
He was director of the Southern Miss School of Communication from 1981 to 2001. His primary specialty was communication law, and he taught undergraduate and graduate courses in this area. Dr. Wiggins also authored numerous publications, including books, book chapters and journal articles in the area of mass communication law.
He taught graduate courses in public relations case studies and law, as well as undergraduate courses in media writing and law, and continued to teach a course in media law and ethics after his retirement.
“I’m devastated to learn of Dr. Wiggins’ passing. He was that special professor who ignited in me a passion to learn and excel,” said author and former CNN reporter Kathleen Koch. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. He taught all his students to be smart and tough, but at the same time kind and fair. We love him and will miss him terribly.”