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Retired Communications Professor Bender a Classroom Innovator

Coleman C. Bender, a longtime Emerson College faculty member known for his engaging classroom presence and his innovative Interpersonal Communication course among others, died June 30 in Boca Raton, Florida, at the age of 95.

Bender joined the Emerson faculty in 1951. At Emerson, he served as chair of the Communications Department, chair of the Department of Education, and director of Graduate Studies. In addition, Dr. Bender, as he was known, was the director of debate and forensics for 20 years.    

Barbara Rutberg ’68, consultant to Emerson’s vice president for Institutional Advancement, said she got to know him both in the classroom and as Bender’s work-study student. She said he had a great sense of humor but “always set high expectations for his students.”

“He was passionate about the subjects and his teaching,” she recalled.

Rutberg said Bender loved to connect with his former students, and up until a few years ago, he would attend almost every alumni gathering in South Florida.

In 1982, Bender retired from Emerson and began teaching at the University of Hawaii. From 2000 to 2010, he taught at Lynn University in Boca Raton.

Bender was a veteran of World War II, serving in the Pacific on Biak Island. Upon his return, he earned a BA and MA from the Pennsylvania State University and a PhD from the University of Illinois. 

During his career, Bender was a consultant to many universities, corporations, service organizations, and professional groups. He provided programs for improving instructional and organizational effectiveness. He also published several books on speech communications.

Bender is survived by his wife, Pauline; his daughter, Sue Dahmus; two grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by his son, David.