Cover photo for Hugh M. Culbertson's Obituary
Hugh M. Culbertson Profile Photo
1935 Hugh 2023

Hugh M. Culbertson

October 21, 1935 — December 29, 2023

With heavy hearts, we announce the passing of Dr. Hugh M. Culbertson, a man of immense intellect, unwavering dedication, and profound influence. His extraordinary life was one of perpetual learning, astute scholarship, and steadfast commitment to his community and students. Dr. Culbertson departed this world peacefully on December 29, 2023, in Athens, Ohio, surrounded by his loving family.

Born on October 21, 1935, in Ferndale, Michigan, Hugh embarked on a remarkable academic journey that would shape his future and inspire generations to come. From his early years, it was clear that he possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge and a brilliant mind that would propel him to great heights.

As a brilliant student at Fowlerville High School, Hugh's passion for learning led him to become the class salutatorian in 1953—an achievement that foreshadowed his exceptional academic career. Continuing his pursuit of knowledge, he obtained a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Journalism from Michigan State University in 1957, where he consistently ranked among the top 10 students in his graduating class. His brilliance was further recognized by MSU President John Hannah, who honored him with regular invitations to academic excellence dinners—an accolade only bestowed upon those achieving All-A grades.

Driven by his insatiable curiosity, Hugh pursued a master's degree in Agricultural Journalism at the University of Wisconsin, graduating in 1958 with an impressive academic record. His path of scholarly achievement continued at Michigan State University, where he completed his doctoral studies in Communication in 1966, receiving a prestigious Cooperative Graduate Fellowship from the National Science Foundation for his unparalleled academic prowess.

Throughout his illustrious career as a professor of journalism at Ohio University, Dr. Culbertson distinguished himself as a prolific researcher, publishing over 80 books, articles, and monographs. His work traversed diverse subjects, including journalism, art interpretation, public relations, and communication theory, leaving an indelible impact on these fields. Notably, his groundbreaking news-reporting text, co-authored with esteemed colleagues Ralph Izard and Donald Lambert, reached the world through six editions.

Dr. Culbertson's contributions to academia were widely recognized, earning him the Pathfinder Award for research excellence from the Public Relations Society of America in 1985. In 1990, he was bestowed with the prestigious PRSA Educator of the Year award, commemorating his exceptional teaching, research, and mentoring endeavors. Alongside J. William Click, he co-founded the Ohio University Public Relations Student Society of America chapter in 1969, which was fittingly named the Hugh M. Culbertson Chapter in recognition of his invaluable guidance and mentorship.

Beyond his academic achievements, Hugh's dedication and commitment to students extended far outside the classroom. He was deeply involved in various student organizations, earning accolades such as the OU Outstanding Student-Organization Adviser in 1985 and Outstanding Honors Tutorial College Tutor in 1994. The College of Communication honored him with the L.J. Hortin Award for mentoring in 2014-5, a testament to his lifelong belief that students were the heart and soul of any university and deserved unwavering support and guidance.

As a service-minded individual, Dr. Culbertson actively contributed to Ohio University, serving as the coordinator of graduate studies for the School of Journalism for eight transformative years. Additionally, he chaired the university-wide English Composition Advisory Committee in the 1970s, playing a vital role in shaping writing-focused courses and ensuring a robust liberal arts education for all students.

In the twilight of his exceptional career, Hugh's worldview expanded to encompass a global perspective. Sharing his wisdom with international audiences, he lectured in China, Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Thailand, and taught as part of a Fulbright-sponsored exchange program at DeLaSalle University in the Philippines. His commitment to fostering cross-cultural understanding was exemplified by hosting several Asian students in his home and serving as an American adviser to the OU Chinese Students' Association and the Chinese Alumni Association.

Beyond his academic accomplishments, Hugh was a devoted member of the First Presbyterian Church in Athens, where his faith and sense of community flourished for over five decades. He served on the session from 1982 to 1984 and actively participated in the AFPC program, offering free weekly college lunches to students. Together with his beloved wife, Charlene, he played a crucial role in the "Wall and Windows" campaign, which revitalized the church building, and served as vice-presidents of the couples' club throughout the 1970s.

As a man of strong character and unwavering loyalty, Dr. Culbertson demonstrated his profound love for his country through his service in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve for five remarkable years, where he achieved the distinction of an expert rifleman.

Dr. Hugh M. Culbertson's memory will forever etch its indomitable mark on the academic world, his community, and the hearts of all who were fortunate enough to cross paths with him. In losing him, we mourn not only a brilliant scholar and insightful mentor but also a deeply cherished father, grandfather, son-in-law, and friend.

Dr. Culbertson is survived by his beloved daughter, Karen (Brad) Graves, his adored son, Steve Culbertson, his cherished grandchildren: Robert (Crystal) Poore, Annie (John) Dumm, Jamie (Dale) Sheets, his loving great-grandchildren, Madison, Elliot, Aubrey, Briar, Novalee, and Aurora, and his special friend, Karen Hutchinson. His presence in their lives will be deeply missed.

Besides his parents, he is preceded in death by his beloved wife of over 64 years, Charlene, July 7, 2023.

The public viewing to honor Dr. Culbertson's extraordinary life and achievements will be held at the Hughes-Moquin Funeral Home on Wednesday, January 3, 2024, beginning at 11:00 am. Following the viewing, a heartfelt funeral service will commence at 1:00 pm, also at the Hughes-Moquin Funeral Home officiated by Rev. Robert Martin. Friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are warmly invited to pay their respects and celebrate the life of this extraordinary visionary.

In accordance with his wishes, Dr. Hugh M. Culbertson will be laid to rest by his wife at the Athens Memory Gardens where military honors will be conducted by the Albany VFW Post 9893 and the American Legion KT Crossen Post 21.

As we bid farewell to this esteemed scholar, let us remember Dr. Culbertson's indomitable spirit, boundless intellect, and unwavering commitment to the pursuit of knowledge. May his legacy endure as an eternal beacon of inspiration, guiding future generations to excel, learn, and make a difference in the world.

In honor of Dr. Hugh M. Culbertson's service to his country, we extend our deepest gratitude for his dedication, bravery, and sacrifice as a member of the United States Marine Corps Reserve.

In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests that donations be made to the Dr. Hugh Culbertson and Dr. Robert Stewart Scholarship in Journalism at Ohio University, ensuring that his passion for education and mentorship continues to shape the lives of aspiring scholars ( Additional donation instructions are available at the funeral home website, where you may also sign the online guestbook or leave a message of sympathy.


The Dr. Hugh Culbertson and Dr. Robert Stewart Scholarship in Journalism (endowed): general scholarship for Journalism students. All gifts to this fund are matched at $0.50 on the dollar by the University through June 30, 2024.

Web link: (Click “give now” and type “Culbertson” into the search bar under Designation)

Foundation account number: 768282

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Hugh M. Culbertson, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

11:00am - 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

Hughes Moquin Funeral Home

168 Morris Avenue, Athens, OH 45701

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.

Funeral Service

Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Starts at 1:00 pm (Eastern time)

Hughes Moquin Funeral Home

168 Morris Avenue, Athens, OH 45701

Enter your phone number above to have directions sent via text. Standard text messaging rates apply.


Photo Gallery

Visits: 5

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree