In Remembrance of Christopher Sterling

July 6, 2023

Chris Sterling

The SMPA community mourns the loss of Christopher Sterling, who passed away on July 1, 2023. 

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of Professor Sterling to SMPA, CCAS and the George Washington University,” said SMPA Director Peter Loge.“His legacy will forever be attached to the research prize which shares his name, and his memory will forever echo in our classrooms.”

Throughout his nearly 35 years at GW, Chris Sterling made a significant impact on the SMPA and GW communities as an associate dean in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences (CCAS) and an SMPA Professor of Media and Public Affairs. He is also one of the namesakes of the Manheim-Sterling Undergraduate Research Prize, an award that supports and encourages outstanding mentored undergraduate research and creative activity with mentorship from an SMPA faculty member. 

"Chris contributed significantly to CCAS as associate dean, leading our efforts on academic program reviews and space planning," said CCAS Dean Paul Wahlbeck. "People are what make the college a community, and it is hard to say goodbye to someone who is so respected. He will be missed by all those who worked with him."

Over the years, Sterling served on the editorial boards of seven media and telecommunication research journals. He lectured, delivered papers, or consulted in, among other places, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Chile, France, Hong Kong, Monaco, and Venezuela. He traveled to all 50 states and in 1996 traveled around the world. In 1992, Sterling received the Distinguished Education Service Award from the Broadcast Education Association and in 2005 he was among the first five people to receive their new Distinguished Scholarship Award. During his career, he authored or edited more than 25 books, including encyclopedias, textbooks and scholarly journals.

"Chris was an exceptional colleague, teacher, scholar, and friend. His resonant voice and deep laugh amplified his wit and wisdom,” said Frank Sesno, Director of Strategic Initiatives and former SMPA Director. “His commitment to journalism and education was exceeded only by his devotion to SMPA, which he helped create and put on the map. We commemorated his remarkable career upon his retirement by creating the Manheim Sterling Award - shared with Professor Emeritus Jarol Manheim - to fund student research and reporting.  Through that award and so much more, we will forever remember the remarkable person Chris was and the stellar work he did." 

The SMPA and GW communities send our deepest condolences to Sterling’s family, his wife, Ellen, and daughters, Robin and Jen. To learn more about his illustrious career and legendary service to SMPA and GW, please view his bio here. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to the US National Park Service to support the places the Sterlings loved so much.