Former Health Communications graduate director dies abroad

by Allison Hagan / Beacon Staff • January 19, 2017

Best known for his books on HIV/AIDS communication, Timothy Edgar served as graduate director of health communication for 14 years.

Edgar died on Jan. 2, according to President M. Lee Pelton. In an email to the Emerson community, Pelton wrote that Edgar, 59, was well respected in the community. He was best known for his proficiency on public health campaigns during his time as graduate health communication program director.  

Edgar died of cardiac arrest at a hospital in New Delhi, India, according to Pelton’s email. He’d been traveling around the country to participate in Unite for Sight, an international program working to eliminate patient barriers to eyecare, Pelton said.

Edgar left Emerson last spring after the college suspended its health communication graduate program due to lack of enrollment. In an interview with the Beacon last year, Edgar said he went to Tufts University to rebuild the communication program with a focus on global communication.

Richard West, communication professor, first met Edgar when he started working in Emerson’s communication department. A pioneer in the field of health communication, Edgar  was a leading researcher at Emerson and a champion of the graduate program of health communication, West said. He said Edgar studied subjects few researchers ever thought about, like HIV/AIDS communication in the early 1990s.

“There is just a palpable loss, not only personally of losing a friend and confidant, but also the field of [communication] studies has lost a major scholar,” West said.

West said he learned to emulate this integrity as he took over Edgar’s role as chair of the institutional review board, a committee in charge of all the research conducted on campus, following Edgar’s departure from the college.

Although Edgar moved to Tufts, West said, his continued support and assistance made it feel like Edgar had never left.

“Once I arrived here, [Edgar] was one of the first faculty to welcome me and to tell me that if I ever needed anything, he was there.” West said.

Sue Gallagher, director of the health communication program at Tufts, said she first met Edgar 13 years ago and knew him as both a colleague and a friend.

“One of the reasons this is such a big loss is because [Edgar] was so committed to students and mentoring students at a level that you often don’t see,” Gallagher said. “I think it’s very important, if you’re a teacher, to really have that passion for students, which he did.”

He was a perfectionist, she said, and would always go the extra mile to make sure things were done the right way. From planning the program’s 20th alumni anniversary event to consistently keeping in touch with alumni, Gallagher said, Edgar was committed to his work and his students.

“[Edgar] was so excited about this new chapter in his life,” she said. “This loss is going to be felt by us for a long, long time.”