Richard Vatz

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Richard Eugene Vatz
Born (1946-12-21) December 21, 1946 (age 70)
Occupation Professor, Towson University

Dr. Richard Eugene Vatz (born December 21, 1946) is a professor of Rhetoric and Communication at Towson University.

Vatz is a Faculty Fellow at the Eastern Communication Association and has been honored by the National Communication Association through his 2012 acceptance in the “Teachers on Teaching” Seminar as well as a separate seminar on his new books (see below).Vatz has been member of the Board of Trustees for several years and an associate psychology editor for the journal USA Today Magazine[1] since 1987 and has been a member of the National Communication Association since 1969.

Vatz wrote The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model, and he is co-editor of Thomas Szasz:  The Man and His Ideas (Transaction Books).

Vatz has spoken at Hillsdale College and the University of Richmond and a lengthy list of other schools and businesses. He has taught a course called “Persuasion” throughout his entire career to filled classes. 

He is married to Joanne Pychock Vatz with 2 grown children, and one grandchild.

Vatz has published a book and hundreds of essays, articles and reviews and given scores of lectures on topics including the preeminence of rhetorical study, political rhetoric, rhetoric and psychiatry and media criticism. His seminal article, “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation,” written when he was 25 years of age has served as the basis for his world view on persuasion; namely, that rhetorical study is conceived most advantageously for the field through a model of competition for persuasion. This competition is evidenced by persuaders’ struggles to create salience for issues or evidence (now commonly termed an “agenda”) followed by the struggle to infuse the saliency with the desired meaning (or now, spin and framing). This perspective emphasizes rhetoric as a creative act with increased persuader responsibility for the situation his or her rhetoric creates and/or sustains for chosen audiences. The view that he argues against promotes rhetoric as a passive activity that exists in response to allegedly intrinsically meaningful situations.

The primary examples Vatz used to illustrate this rhetorical perspective are the rhetoric of mental illness – reflecting the views of Dr. Thomas S. Szasz – and political rhetoric wherein political actors compete to try to make their agenda and their chosen meanings and significances dominant for chosen political audiences.


  • President's Award for Distinguished Service, 2004, Towson University's highest honor
  • Maryland “Governor’s Citation” for Achievements in Higher Education and Service to Towson University, 2004
  • The Thomas Szasz Civil Liberties Award January, 1994
  • Winner, Teaching Fellow Award, Eastern Communication Association, 2004
  • Keynote Speaker and award-winner at first "Towson's Elite" Night, 2004
  • Towson University Faculty Volunteer Service Award, 2003
  • "Teacher of the Year,” 2002, Towson University, awarded by the Student Government Association
  • University Merit Award 1984, 1988, 1990 (awarded to 30 faculty each year 1983-1990)
  • Won 1977, 1978, 1979, 1980 – Outstanding Teaching Grants (awarded to ten of approximately 500 full-time faculty each year 1976-1980); most of such awards on faculty
  • Appointed to Faculty of Honors College, Towson State University, 1982

Selected Lecturing Activity[edit]

  • Windham Fellow Lecture Series in Liberal Arts, "Rhetoric and Impeachment," Middle Tennessee State University, March 4, 1999
  • Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich's addresses to Vatz’s "Persuasion" class at Towson twice a year 1993-present
  • Moderated debates for U.S. House of Representatives election: 2004; Dutch Ruppersberger in 2006 for his attempt to win a Congressional seat and Ruppersberger vs. Helen Bentley for their House race, September 24, 2002. Vatz moderated a debate between state senate candidates Jim Brochin and Martha Klima, 2002
  • Featured speaker honoring Dr. Thomas Szasz on his 80th birthday; symposium was titled “Liberty and/or Psychiatry: 40 Years After 'The Myth of Mental Illness,'" April 15, 2000
  • Highlight Article on Vatz’s public commentary: Vatz's Election Commentary, Towson Times, October 23, 2002
  • Subject of article in The Washington Post, May 6, 2004 on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich’s lectureships to his Persuasion class, 1993-2004

Some Research Highlights[edit]

  • Panel presented on Vatz’s work at NCA convention, "Richard E. Vatz on Rhetoric and Psychiatry," 1999
  • Named as a major rhetorical theorist in an essay on "The Rhetorical Situation" in Twentieth-Century Roots of Rhetorical Studies and in essay on "Rhetorical Theory as Message Reception" in Spring, 2003 Communication Studies
  • Appointed Lifetime Member of Board of Trustees, [2]
  • Chosen by NCA Vice President to participate in a debate on President Bush’s policies on Iraq for NCA national convention, 2002
  • Ad Watch Critic, WBAL Radio, September-November 2002: Printed Analysis of Campaign Ads in 2002 Campaigns
  • Short bio feature, “No Rhetoric Here,” The Baltimore Jewish Times,” January 9, 2004 p. 8


He has won Towson’s "President’s Award for Distinguished Service" (the University’s highest honor), the 2009-10 first Towson Student Government's "Faculty Member of the Year," the 2002 Towson University "Teacher of the Year Award," the Towson University Alumni Association’s 2003 Faculty Volunteer Service Award, and four Towson University Outstanding Teaching Awards in the five years they were awarded (1976–1980), the most of any faculty member at the university. His teaching will be honored at a "Teachers on Teaching" seminar at the 2012 National Communication Association national convention. Vatz has won the Thomas Szasz Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Cause of Civil Liberties. He blogs for Red Maryland. He is the longest serving member of Towson University's University Senate (35 years at the end of his current term).


Vatz has written a book on persuasion (2012, with a revision by McGraw-Hill scheduled 2017) titled The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion: the Agenda-Spin Model and a new co-edited book Thomas Szasz:  The Man and His Ideas (Transaction Books), out now in 2017. He has also published numerous articles on political rhetoric and media criticism in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Washington Times and The Los Angeles Times," and hundreds of academic publications, op-ed pieces and paid lectures. He has also presented hundreds of convention papers and panels at the National Communication Association (NCA) and Eastern Communication Association (ECA), including regular analyses of political rhetoric in high profile seminars at the NCA with progressive colleagues.

He has appeared on Crossfire, Larry King Live, The Phil Donahue Show, William F. Buckley's Firing Line and many other radio and television outlets. He most frequently appears as a guest on WBAL Radio in Baltimore and has also appeared frequently on WBFF-TV, WMAR-TV, primarily on their talk show "Square Off" hosted by Richard Sher, Maryland Public Television, WJZ-TV, and WBAL-TV.

His seminal article, “The Myth of the Rhetorical Situation,” written in the journal Philosophy and Rhetoric when he was 26 years of age, critiqued Lloyd Bitzer's 1968 article "The Rhetorical Situation" in the same journal and this has served as the basis for his world view on persuasion; namely, that rhetorical study is conceived most advantageously for the field through a model of competition for agenda and spin. Vatz published a follow-up piece to the "Myth" article in the National Communication Association's January, 2009, Review of Communication. The article was titled "The Mythical Status of Situational Rhetoric: Implications for Rhetorical Critics’ Relevance in the Public Arena." Vatz argued there that the "Myth" perspective was the appropriate rhetorical approach to the study of persuasion, and that the perspective offered in "The Rhetorical Situation" was anathema to the academic status of rhetorical study, as it implied that situations caused the production of rhetoric rather than high-ethos rhetoricians' choices causing what audiences perceived as dominant situations and their meaning.

He is a conservative blogger for Red Maryland ( and blogs several pieces a year on national conservative perspectives on rhetorical theory, media criticism and contemporary political issues.

He has been a member of his Towson University University Senate for a record 38 (current term ends in 2020) years, promoting faculty autonomy and consistently supporting the values of academic freedom, free speech and the marketplace of ideas and opposing the increasing bureaucratizing of universities.[citation needed]


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  2. ^ USA Today Magazine

External links[edit]