FSU Film School founder and retired Comm. professor, Donald Ungurait, passes away

Dr. Donald Ungurait
Dr. Donald Ungurait

Dr. Donald Ungurait, the founding dean of the FSU Film School and a retired Communication professor, died Aug. 3 at the age of 76.  He had been battling cancer and passed away in South Florida.

Ungurait received his B.A. at Indiana State University.  He later earned his M.A. and Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

In 1968, Ungurait joined the FSU faculty as a professor in the College of Communication (it became the College of Communication & Information in 2009), where he worked for most of his tenure.  He was a pioneer in the class using multimedia techniques before they became popular.

In the late 1980s, Ungurait worked with Florida legislators and government officials to get the film school approved for FSU.  Opening in1989 as the first film school at a public university in Florida, it is now called the College of Motion Picture, Television and Recording Arts, and is often ranked as one of the top film schools in the country.

Dr. Marilyn J. Young, Wayne C. Minnick Professor of Communication, Emerita, was a close colleague of Ungurait.  She retired in 2005, two years after he ended his 35-year career at FSU.  “Ungurait was the mover and shaker behind the creation of the film school, said Young.  “He worked closely with the Legislature and the governor’s office to make it happen and make it part of Florida State.”

Ungurait successfully ran a state-wide internship program for the film industry.  The Association of Independent Commercial Producers selected him as the Film Educator of the Decade in 1990.

Over his career, Ungurait directed more than 50 plays, musicals and operas at local theater venues, many taking place at the Tallahassee Little Theatre.  He also has more than 200 producer-director credits.

Dr. Jay Rayburn, Communication Associate Professor and a close colleague of Ungurait, admired his kindness and devotion to students throughout his years at FSU.  Rayburn remarked, “Don Ungurait was one of the greatest teachers I have ever known.  If a student tried, Don would move heaven and earth to help him or her.  You couldn’t find a more devoted friend.  We will all miss him terribly.”

While at FSU, Ungurait was honored twice with the Seminole Award for Leadership and Service.  He also received the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Education.  In 2003, he retired as an Associate Professor of Communication.

This summary is based on the Tallahassee Democrat article published on August 6, 2013 by Doug Blackburn. 

Dr. Donald Ungurait
Dr. Donald Ungurait