During his formative years, John Lee Jellicorse’s interest in communication and expression was comprehensive. He was put in speech therapy, participated in debate and forensics, acted and directed, learned much from his father who was a radio and television engineer, was a radio announcer, and began shooting 16 mm film when he was eleven. He earned his AB degree from the University of Tennessee and his doctorate from Northwestern University. He began his career as an educator as a speech and theatre teacher at Knoxville Central High School and as an instructor at Appalachian State University and Northwestern University. He rose through the ranks at Northwestern earning tenure in 1968 as an associate professor and serving as Acting Department Head of the Communication Studies Department in his last year there. Jellicorse’s graduate studies had been funded by a College Teaching Career Fellowship from the Council of Southern Universities. The Fellowship required that recipients serve a portion of their careers in the south, so in 1969 Jellicorse returned to the University of Tennessee as an associate professor on a joint appointment between Speech and Theatre, a department in the College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Communication. For the College of Communication he developed undergraduate and graduate core courses in communication theory and helped plan a doctoral program. For Liberal Arts he initiated and taught the University’s first upper division film study courses.
In 1974 Jellicorse came to UNC Greensboro as Professor and Head of the Drama and Speech Department. He helped guide this unit through a period of explosive growth. By 1991, when he took leave to work in Hong Kong, the small Drama and Speech Department (thirteen faculty in three areas) had become the Department of Communication and Theatre with multiple undergraduate and graduate programs in six different disciplines. It was the University’s largest department, enrolling 1,308 FTE students and serving more than nine hundred majors. Jellicorse hired the first faculty in education-of-the-deaf and initiated the media courses and curricula that became the Broadcasting and Cinema Division and later Department (now Media Studies). Subsequently the five divisions of the Communication and Theatre Department all became separate flourishing departments with Jellicorse serving as the first regular department head in Broadcasting and Cinema.
During his absence from UNCG in the early nineties Jellicorse designed a comprehensive communications curriculum for the US Information Service to be implemented at the Technical University of Wroclaw, Poland; and he served for three years as the founding Dean of the School of Communication at Hong Kong Baptist University in China. Establishing the School required creating departments, hiring new faculty and staff, selecting department chairs, and developing new degree programs and having them accredited.
During his career Jellicorse was a member of or chaired numerous University and College committees ending with creating a program at UNCG to promote the development of arts entrepreneurship. He has been a frequent contributor to professional journals and associations and pursued creative work as an actor, director, and film producer. He was mainly a teacher nd curriculum developer, however. Because of the breadth of his background and interests, he was able to prepare and initiate new courses, develop enrollment for them, and then hire specialists to take them over while he moved on to extend a different area of the curriculum. Thus throughout his university career, he taught over sixty different courses including nine in journalism and mass media, seven in communication theory, twelve in broadcasting, twenty in cinema, two in fundamentals of speech, fourteen in communication studies, and six in theatre plus thesis and doctoral student supervision.