One of the foremost authorities on communication anxieties and a leading scholar of early American writing have claimed West Virginia Universitys premier research honor.

James C. McCroskey, a professor in the Department of Communication Studies, and Timothy Sweet, associate chairman in the Department of English, are recipients of the 2004 Benedum Distinguished Scholar Award. The award recognizes WVU faculty for achievements in research and scholarly activities.

“This years recipients are leaders in their research areas and examples of the first-rate scholars who make WVU their home,”said C.B. Wilson, associate provost for academic personnel and chairman of the selection committee.

McCroskey is a leading researcher in the area of communication apprehension, a term he coined to encompass all forms of human communication. He has developed methods for measuring and alleviating this anxiety and conducted extensive research in related areas such as willingness to communicate, shyness, talkaholism and communication competence.

His research has also explored the effects of communication apprehension on self-esteem, academic achievement and career advancement.

McCroskeys most recent books on the subject, including one focusing on communication avoidance and another on trait perspectives of the communication process, were released in 1997, 1998 and 2001.

“He is without doubt the leader in an area of research and practice that is growing in importance for business operations, political actions and social reforms,”James L. Gaudino, dean of Kent State Universitys College of Communication and Information, wrote in a letter supporting McCroskeys nomination for the Benedum award.

McCroskey, whose award is in the behavioral and social sciences category, is arguably the most prolific scholar in his field. He has published more than 200 articles and book chapters, almost 50 books and revisions, and over 30 instructional books. His first book,”An Introduction to Rhetorical Communication,”is in its eighth printing, making it one of the oldest continuously published books in the field. He has also edited several professional journals.

McCroskey joined the WVU communication studies faculty in 1972 and was chairman of the department for 25 years. He taught at Illinois State University, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, Old Dominion University and the University of Hawaii before coming to WVU .

A native of Platte, S.D., he earned a bachelors degree in speech, English and secondary education from Southern State (S.D.) Teachers College, a masters degree in speech from the University of South Dakota and a doctorate in speech communication from Penn State.

Other awards he has won include WVU s Outstanding Teacher Award and the 2003 Mentor Award from the National Communication Association.

He lives in Morgantown with his wife, Virginia P. Richmond, who is also a professor in communication studies. He has five childrenall WVU alumniand one stepson.

Sweet, whose award is in humanities and the arts, is a leading scholar of American letters from the colonial era through the 19th century.

His latest book,”American Georgics: Economy and Environment in Early American Literature,”offers a fresh approach to the study of literature and environment by reviving the classical distinction between”pastoral”and”georgic”styles. While pastoral writings idealize the leisurely, carefree state of rural life, georgic works focus on the role of human labor in nature.

The book charts the development of modern notions of environmental engagementlimits, capacity, sustainability, the public goodthrough georgic-style writings from the late 16th century through the antebellum era. These include writings on agriculture by colonist John Smith and Thomas Jefferson, ideas on conservation in novelist James Fenimore Coopers Leatherstocking tales and the nature essays of Henry David Thoreau.

“Sweet skillfully managesfar better than most literary-historical scholars todayto acknowledge the play and grip of economic motives without falling into the trap of concluding that this was the only line of motivation or perception at play,”Lawrence Buell, a Harvard University professor of American literature and himself a published literary historian, wrote in support of Sweets nomination.

Sweet is also the author of”Traces of War: Poetry, Photography, and the Crisis of the Union,”which examines Civil War poetry and battlefield photography. He has edited and written a preface to a new edition of Philip Pendleton Kennedys”The Blackwater Chronicle,”published by West Virginia University Press in 2002.

He joined the WVU English faculty in 1990 and has been associate chairman since 2000. He taught at George Mason University and the University of Minnesota before coming to WVU .

Sweet, who grew up in Goodhue, Minn., earned his bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees in English from the University of Minnesota. Other honors he has received include two Outstanding Researcher awards from the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences.

Sweet lives in Morgantown with his wife, Laura Brady, director of WVU s Center for Writing Excellence.

The Benedum and Distinguished Professors of WVU established the Benedum Distinguished Scholar Awards in 1985-86 to honor and reward University faculty for excellence in research, scholarship or creative endeavors. The program is funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and coordinated by the Office of Academic Affairs and Research.

McCroskey and Sweet will accept their $2,500 awards at a special convocation at 7 p.m. Friday, April 16, in the Mountainlair Ballrooms as part of WVU s Weekend of Honors.

As Benedum Distinguished Scholars, they will also present public lectures related to their fields. McCroskey will give a lecture at 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 20, in the Mountainlair Rhododendron Room. Sweets lecture will be Tuesday, April 27, also at 4 p.m. in the Rhododendron Room.