Dr. Percy H. Tannenbaum, a member of the faculty at the Annenberg School for Communication in the late 1960s and the first chair of the ASC doctoral graduate program, died October 2, 2009. He was 82 years old.
Dr. Tannenbaum was living in Berkeley, California when he died, where he was an emeritus professor of public policy at the University of California at Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.
Born in Montreal, Canada, in 1927, Dr. Tannenbaum earned his undergraduate degree in journalism in 1948 from McGill University, and his master’s (1951) and doctoral (1953) degrees in communications from the University of Illinois.
He came to the Annenberg School at Penn as a professor of communication in 1967, after having served as the head of the University of Wisconsin’s Mass Communications Research Center.
He was a recognized scholar in the social psychological aspects of communications, and was the principal investigator of national and cross-cultural studies. He was the co-author (with Drs. Charles E. Osgood and George J. Suci) of The Measurement of Meaning, and was author of over 60 studies on audience attitude measurement.
In 1968, the Annenberg School began offering doctoral degrees in communication, and Dr. Tannenbaum served as the first chairman of the new Graduate Group. The fledgling doctoral program featured three "core" areas of study that most who know Annenberg are intimately familiar with today: "Communication Codes and Modes," "Communications Behavior," and "Communication Institutions." "Even after his move to Berkeley, he followed the field of communication very closely, and was equally at home in psychology, political science, and public policy," said long-time friend and colleague Dr. Elihu Katz, Distinguished Trustee Professor at the Annenberg School.
"Dr. Tannenbaum was a world renowned social psychologist, an expert on the media, an early member of the GSPP faculty, the third director of the University of California's Survey Research Center, and a great contributor to the Goldman School. His work with Charles Osgood and George Suci on the ‘measurement of meaning’ using the semantic differential is some of the most cited research in social psychology, survey research, political science, and many other fields. He was an early contributor to the field of media studies, where he worked on the impact of the media and the consequences of reports of election polling. While he was director of the Survey Research Center, the Center engaged in path-breaking studies on AIDS, the homeless, racism, elections, and many other topics," said Dr. Henry Brady, dean of UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.
Dr. Tannenbaum is survived by his wife, Bracha (Kaplan) Tannenbaum; children, Brian Tannenbaum and Nili Tannenbaum; grandchildren, Owen and Malcolm Albin.