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Dr. Joe Flickinger Set to Retire
Flickinger reflects on accomplished career as he preps to retire
By Alex Pistole
In the back corner of the School of Communication office, through the door with a cutout of Mr. Bean taped to it, and behind a big desk, you’ll find Dr. Joe Flickinger. His hair isn’t blonde anymore, like it is in his faculty picture, but he still greets you with energy and a handshake. Countless students have no doubt come this way to beg for extra credit, ask for help on an assignment, or explain why they slept through the final over the years. But, after 23 years of dedicated service to Radford University, on May 15, 2016, that desk will be empty.
The production technology professor’s retirement is finally in sight. His career has been long, with over 40 years spent on university campuses from coast to coast, and it has taken turns he never expected. Travel and taking the path less trodden have been recurring themes all throughout his life, and that’s just the way he’s viewing his retirement as well, as another journey.
“We’re probably thinking about going to Scotland or Ireland,” says Flickinger of the first of many trips he and his wife are planning. They’ve both been brushing up on Celtic Irish in anticipation, adding another language to the growing list they’ve learned over the years. At one point, Flickinger’s career in academics even landed him in a Venezuelan maximum-security prison for a month. He wasn’t there with stripes on his back, but rather a camera. On a joint venture with RU’s Criminal Justice Department, Flickinger and a few others travelled to the prison to make a 45-minute educational documentary for use in the classrooms.
“I was more comfortable in the prison than just outside,” he laughs, explaining that the nearby mountains were teaming with soldiers and the prison was the safest place around. Other learning trips have included teaching in Bulgaria for a semester and studying in Germany during undergrad. There was even one occurrence when his First Class FCC Certification landed him a job working on a communications installation at the Jet Propulsion Lab in California, and he happened to be in the room when NASA received the first ever satellite images of Mercury from the Mariner 10 probe.
“That’s kind of how my whole life has been,” he says of his career, “I’ve done a lot of things that I really enjoyed, but I hadn’t planned on doing it when I started out.” Though Flickinger certainly found his calling in communications, he originally went to school at Kalamazoo College in his home state of Michigan, majoring in chemistry and physics. He ended up with a bachelor’s degree in theater production. It was at Kalamazoo where he met his wife, and the two moved to the west coast so he could pursue a master’s degree in film production at the University of Southern California in 1972.
His wife encouraged him to move to Astoria, Oregon so she could continue her education, and Flickinger soon found his first job teaching. After a brief period working at a local radio station, he got a position teaching a radio and television class at the community college where she was completing a degree in forestry. Flickinger ended up spending the next 13 years there, until deciding to complete his telecommunication Ph.D. at the University of Oregon.
In 1991, in order to be a little closer to his family in Michigan, he started looking for positions on this side of the country.
“I interviewed here, and I really liked the collegiality with the faculty that were here, they were all really friendly and it felt good,” he explains of his first trip to Radford. By the beginning of 1992 he had accepted a position at RU and moved his young family from Oregon to Virginia. Most of his students this semester were little more than toddlers back then, but over the past 23 years Flickinger has held many important positions in the department. He directed the graduate program for a time, and was the chair of the media studies department for seven years.
“I wanted to do fun stuff like teach and research and things like that, I didn’t want all of the bureaucracy,” he says of the administrative position, “so, I voluntarily stepped down. It helped my blood pressure a lot,” he jokes. Since then, he’s been teaching four classes a semester and getting to help students with all sorts of video and audio projects. Some have kept up with him for years on Facebook.
With such a successful career in higher education and telecommunications, and the end so close, he and his wife have made big plans after retirement. Besides buying plane tickets and foreign language books, their first endeavor will be to sell their house in Radford and move to a ranch-style home somewhere around Roanoke. They’ll be closer to their kids and young grandchildren that way, and the airport