Associate communications, journalism professor dies at 42

Joseph Giordano, an associate professor in the communications and journalism department, died at his home Sunday due to complications from liver disease. He was 42.

Giordano – born June 3, 1958 in Astoria, Queens, N.Y. – has been at UW-Eau Claire since 1989. He taught public relations classes this semester before taking medical leave early in March.

Department Chair A. David Gordon said Giordano missed some classes in February. After spending time in the hospital and at home recuperating, Giordano tried to resume teaching. But when it became clear he couldn’t do so, he notified Gordon of his need to take the rest of the semester off.

At that point, Giordano spent a couple of days on campus preparing his materials for the instructors who would finish teaching his courses.

“He did it by sheer force of will,” Gordon said. “His caring for students was so strong he was going to do it no matter what the physical toll was.”

Associate professor Terry Chmielewski also teaches public relations courses and picked up one of Giordano’s classes this semester. Chmielewski said Giordano was a very private individual and had been sick for a couple of years.

“It was clear to me that he would not make it through the fall,” Chmielewski said. “But I never really admitted it to myself.”

Chmielewski said even if he was able to convince himself of this fact, he didn’t tell other students or faculty members about it.

“When it hits – it hits,” Chmielewski said. “And it’s a sock to your gut.”

Services are scheduled for 10 a.m. today at St. Olaf’s Catholic Church, 2407 North Lane, on the north side of Eau Claire. Burial will be at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.

Chmielewski will speak at the funeral today. He hesitated calling it a eulogy and termed it a remembrance of Giordano.

“I’m going to focus on two things,” he said. “What I learned from him as a professional and that I was just becoming his friend.”

Because of the combination of their professional relationship and the fact that their schedules usually didn’t mesh, Chmielewski said he and Giordano didn’t develop a meaningful friendship until Giordano was near the end of his life.

Giordano was instructing an introductory public relations course, a fundamentals of speech course and a capstone course this semester. He primarily taught public relations courses, but Gordon said Giordano made it a point to teach a section of speech most semesters because he was interested in having the exposure to many students.

One of those students, senior public relations major Dan Salbreiter, was enrolled in Giordano’s capstone class this semester.

“Although soft-spoken, (Giordano) was sure to show his humorous side when time called for it,” Salbreiter said. “He has instructed me for the last three years. He taught me everything I know about PR.”

Senior public relations major Jolene Clare said Giordano was a “stickler” about attending class. So when he cancelled some classes, the students knew something was wrong.

“He was a really understanding professor,” said senior Melissa Leef, another capstone student.

“He knew there was more to life than just classes,” Clare said.

The UW-Eau Claire Foundation is accepting memorials for the Joseph Giordano Scholarship fund. Chancellor Donald Mash has ordered the flag atop Schofield Hall to be flown at half-staff today in memory of Giordano.