Dr. Lewis Donohew-Emeritus Member
University of Kentucky, Professor of Communication (post retirement appointment)

Donohew earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism from UK in 1951. While completing his undergraduate degree, he worked part-time as a sports writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader and after graduation as editor of the Pikeville Daily News.  He entered the U.S. Air Force, where he worked in information services, and afterward served as reporter and then city editor of the Owensboro Messenger and Inquirer before joining the UK news bureau in 1957.

He earned an M.A. in political science from UK in 1961 and a Ph.D. in mass communication from Iowa in 1965. He served as adviser to the Kentucky Kernel in 1962-63 and again in 1964-65. In the spring of 1965, he was appointed assistant professor of journalism, was promoted to associate professor in 1967, and to professor in 1970.

Three years after becoming a full professor, he was appointed Director of the School of Communication and Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Donohew was a driving force in establishment of communication as a discipline at the University of Kentucky, serving as principal architect of the bachelor’s, masters, and doctoral degree programs in the field.

He has served as principal investigator (PI) on 12 research grants, primarily from the National Institutes of Health, and co-investigator (Co-I) on 18 grants, also from NIH, altogether totaling more than $41 million. His research focused on human information processing and individual differences in what attracts and holds attention to both media and interpersonal messages and persuades individuals to change unhealthy behaviors. Primary focus of the research was prevention of risky behaviors involving drug use and risky sex.

He is author of an Activation Theory of Information Exposure and has published 31 books and chapters, 52 journal articles, six special reports and monographs, and presented more than 50 papers at major conferences nationally and internationally. He also has served as special review consultant on research on mass media and public health campaigns for the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Cancer Institute, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and National Institute on Mental Health.

In 1989, he established the first University of Kentucky Health Communication Conference with a $30,000 grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The conference is now held biennially in Lexington.

In 2002, the National Communication Association named Donohew as the Health Communication Scholar of the Year. In 2007, he and members of his research team were recognized with an award from the Society for Prevention Research for their research and credited the team with changing the way health communication campaigns are conducted.

Donohew formally retired from UK in 1999 but continued to work under a post-retirement appointment until fall, 2013. Since retirement, he has been consultant or co-investigator on research projects at Duke, Wake Forest, a cancer center in Denver, a private company in Chicago, the University of Kentucky and the University of New Mexico.