John Fett, professor emeritus of life sciences communication, dies at 85

John Fett, a professor emeritus and former chairman of the Department of Life Sciences Communication who shaped the department’s course for more than three decades, died on Jan. 30, 2018. He was 85.

Born on May 7, 1932 in Plymouth, Wis., he earned a trifecta of degrees from UW–Madison: a B.S. in Agricultural Journalism (now Life Sciences Communication) in 1961, a M.S. in Agricultural Journalism in 1962 and a Ph.D. in Mass Communication in 1967. He was hired as an instructor at the university in 1962 and joined the faculty of the Department of Agricultural Journalism as a professor in 1967.

John served as chair of the department from 1977 to 1982 and retired in 1997. He spent his career teaching classes in radio, film and publications. His research focused on development communication, information program evaluation, theory and practice of communication in rural development in developing countries and evaluation of extension and other education information programs.

In 1967, John took a leave of absence from the university to spend three years at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with a U.S. Agency for International Development program.

An open house in Fett’s honor was held at John and Neiva’s home on Sunday, Feb. 4. In lieu of flowers, friends may donate to the American Heart Association. To learn more about Fett’s life, read his full obituary at