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CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA
Wayne Joseph Maikranz, age 63, of Charlotte, North Carolina, passed away at his home on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2023. He was born September 4, 1960, in Evansville, Indiana, the son of the late Billy M. and Marion V. Maikranz.
He was a graduate of Evansville’s North High School, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mass communications from Evansville University, and a Master of Arts degree in journalism from Ball State University.
Long before achieving his own educational goals, he was a teacher and mentor. Wayne was just 12 when he told his pal Paul that he wanted to start a library. Paul quipped that Wayne certainly had enough books to do that now. Imaginations sparked; pretty soon both boys had established after-school and summer break private libraries in their home basements, dubbed Melody Branches 1 and 2. The Maikranz-home location (2) opened with flair: handbills, ribbon cutting ceremony, refreshments and all. Not only did the public library director come to do the honor of taking the scissors, the local newspaper and TV station covered the event, too (much to the surprise of Mr. & Mrs. Maikranz)! Two years later, Wayne had built Melody Branch 2 into an extensive lending collection, with books for toddlers to high-school level, and with magazines, newspapers, reference material, records and tapes. Wayne made official borrowing slips to rubber stamp the due dates, created a card catalog system, hosted book club meetings, and taught creative writing and craft classes. This may sound over-the-top for a middle schooler, but those who knew Wayne understand that sharing his irrepressible creativity and enthusiasm for reading and learning is just who he was, through and through.
That pattern carried through to serving on student government boards and as a Crescent Magazine staff member as an undergraduate, and Orient yearbook in graduate school. In September of 1985, Wayne was hired as Director of Student Media at UNC Charlotte.
Dr. George R. “Jody” Harpster was the then-director of Student Life and Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs at UNC Charlotte. Harpster recalls that prior to hiring Wayne Maikranz, student media at the University was advised by various faculty members. Wayne was the first full-time professional adviser specific to student publications.
“He was the best hire in my 40-plus-year higher ed career,” said Harpster. “He was superb from the beginning; good at getting people to work collaboratively. He had high standards but also was kind, supportive and generous.”
Under Wayne’s training and guidance, it wasn’t long before the national collegiate awards began to accrue. Just two years into the job, Wayne received the National Teaching Award from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.
Jim Hoppa, retired Senior Associate Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, said he was astounded by the awards that UNC Charlotte student media would bring back to campus. “Here we were going against [UNC Chapel Hill] and other big universities with acclaimed journalism schools, and yet we were often winning against them! Wayne had a knack for finding, recruiting and developing students from a variety of majors, not just the Comm department.”
Wayne was a mentor and friend to hundreds of students over three decades as student media adviser and lecturer in the Communication Studies department. He connected with both heart and humor. When he recognized potential, he would point it out and provide a safe place for it to grow. He would challenge preconceptions with warmth. He believed in students enough to let them fail when failure was the better lesson, and he was present with comfort for tragic typos, miserable misquotes and sundry screw-ups.
"Wayne's ability to connect with his students on a personal level was truly remarkable, leaving an indelible mark on all those fortunate enough to have crossed paths with him," said Jill McCartney Wagoner, former student and University Times Editor. "His impact extended far beyond the classroom and student media program. He not only taught us the technical skills of media production and the art of storytelling but also instilled in us a sense of purpose and passion. His guidance and mentorship shaped not only our careers but also our character."
“Wayne was everything you could possibly ask for in a college adviser,” said Donald White, former University Times Opinion editor and current wire editor at Gannett, “a steady and calming presence on hectic deadline days, a source of wise counsel and one of the funnest people I've had the pleasure to know. The joy he took in his job was infectious, and he, more than any other faculty member at UNCC, was responsible for my professional path. The school was lucky to have him, and I was lucky to know him.”
Under Wayne’s direction and in print and publishing universally, a lot changed between the mid-80’s and the first two look decades of the 2000’s. The student newspaper changed names and format a couple times, Media Marketing adjusted to the radically changed advertising model affecting all media, digital publishing grew, podcasts were added, and in 2009, the whole operation moved from the basement of Cone Center to the Popp Martin Student Union.
One thing that remained constant though, was the annual awards banquet. Wayne established that event early in his career. Each was unique and brought to life with a theme (e.g., “There’s no place like Student Media” done up like Oz, Circus-style “Student Media--The Greatest Show on Earth” and so many more just as corny and fun). Dining halls featured handmade decorations that took weeks to make; family members and friends were invited, and after the skits or videos were shown and awards presented, the evening ended in photographs, hugs and more often than not, happy tears. “He threw an end-of-year banquet that could only be topped by a Broadway show,” recalls Melissa Treadaway. The bonds that formed during an academic year were cemented in memory with the banquet. That was Wayne’s goal.
Wayne also contributed to university initiatives beyond student publications and the classes he taught. He championed diversity and inclusion and was an advocate for the student LGBTQ+ community. He advised the UNC Charlotte PRIDE student organization in the first few years of its formation and was also a part of a group that established the Safe Zone program on campus.
Wayne retired from UNC Charlotte in December of 2019. In honor of his immense impact, a scholarship in his name was established.
Outside of work, Wayne loved his family and friends, planting and caring for flowers, excessively decorating for the holidays, and enjoying sophisticated cuisine like chicken strips and nuggets, plain hamburgers, mashed potatoes or french fries, candy — and that’s just about it. He always had exact change in his pocket. And he had a laugh that seemed to come from his toes, dancing, delightful and utterly infectious.
Wayne is survived by his beloved partner of 32 years, Phillip Bogle, and his brothers, William "Bill" M. Maikranz (Pam) of Fenton, MO, and Walter "Walt" V. Maikranz (David Sassanella) of Fort Wayne, IN, nieces Julie Maikranz Stratman (Aaron) and Jane Reuter (Scott), several great nieces, and Doris, the cat.
Cremation Society of Charlotte is handling final arrangements. Per Wayne’s request, there will be no services. The family requests that those who wish to honor Wayne may consider donations to the the Wayne Maikranz Student Media Award (https://crowdfund.charlotte.edu/project/13856)
See Wayne awards, accomplishments, and tributes from former students and colleagues below.
National Teaching Award from the Poynter Institute for Media Studies,1987
UNC Charlotte Employee of the Year - 1992
Distinguished Magazine Advisor Award from the College Media association,1993
Inducted into the College Media Advisers Hall of Fame in 2008
Friend of Media Award at the 32nd Student Niner Media Awards of Excellence Program
Associated College Press Pioneer Award, 2022
Served on the Advisory Program Board for the Associated Collegiate Press Association
Designed “The People of Route 601: Life in the Slow Lane,” a book of photography by Lex Youngman
Founding member of the NC College Media Association and taught at the first conference, 2008
Co-authored “The Guidebook of Magazine Fundamentals” for the Associated College Press
He truly was the wizard of student media, and a guidepost for the lives of generations of students. Wayne’s infectious laugh replays in my memories as the punctuation to joy. Wayne was authentic, and shared himself with us —his students, coworkers and friends— so selflessly. He genuinely cared for his students, and he nourished a passion that started with lessons in writing, design, paper and fonts, and flourished into lessons of life, equity, judiciousness, and speaking up for the little guy. He had an open office, and open home, and welcomed us in and nourished us. He could break up long work sessions with humor or a well aimed rubber band just when you needed it. – Jennifer Bonacci Conway
Most of my memories of Wayne are pretty funny as he was always quick to find humor in any situation. I think back on his cameos in the end of year videos, blue motorcycles, his love of practical jokes and just the way he would tell a story while cracking himself up before the punchline. I will always remember that laugh.
On the serious side of things he was a adamant defender of the rights of student journalists and how they should not be censored. I know he is the reason that many reporters and writers are in their field today. Wayne always went out of his way to make everyone feel welcomed and that is a good reason why Student Media was a second home for so many different types of people.
- Pete Hurdle
I was about as lost as I could be when I first wandered into the UNCC Student Media offices. I was coming out of a long-term relationship, my college career was going nowhere, I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing or where I was supposed to be.
Walking through those doors... I found a home. I found a purpose. I found a family. I found the beginning of one of the best periods of my life.
And it all existed because of Wayne Maikranz.
To say that Wayne was a wonderful teacher, mentor, and person is a true understatement. Over a decades-long career guiding Student Media, he worked tirelessly to instill in me - and hundreds of other students over the years - a healthy respect for the role journalism plays in our world. Many journalists today could stand to learn some of these lessons. He did by doing the simplest - but most powerful - thing he could do.
He never treated us as student journalists.
He treated us as journalists.
That made all the difference.
I have so many fond memories of those times, and of Wayne himself. Like trying to get that gentle man to act like a badass Tony Soprano-wannabe in our annual year-end video. The decision to scrap an issue that was 99% done to cover 9/11 - a powerful moment I'll never forget. Lots of laughter, lots of stress, lots of parties, lots of long talks about the right thing to do as journalists to do right by the students of UNCC. And lots and lots of fun.
I have friends I met in those offices who are still part of my life today and will be forever. I have experiences I will always treasure. I have a life that, in a lot of ways, started when I walked through those doors. And none of it would have happened without the place Wayne built. - Nick Smith
Wayne Maikranz was my adviser, mentor, and friend. He taught me and so many dear friends of mine over years of late-night talks, lessons, advice, practical jokes, and so much laughter.
Wayne's dedication to his students went beyond the curriculum and the newsroom, as he genuinely cared about our personal growth and success. He consistently encouraged us to push our boundaries and think creatively, fostering an environment of innovation and self-expression. His influence continues to resonate with us, inspiring us to not only excel in our professional endeavors but also to make a positive impact in the world around us.
Those years spent in the basement of the Cone Center hold some of my very favorite memories. I am forever grateful for his unwavering support and belief in us. Wayne, you will always hold a special place in our hearts. Hugs and prayers to Phillip and all the UNCC student media family. – Jill Wagoner, Former Editor-in-Chief of The University Times
Wayne came into my life in the spring of 1987, as a guest speaker in my UNC Charlotte journalism class. At the time, I was unsure of my professional path. I was an Information Technology major; and while I did well academically, it was not a natural fit. I just assumed that was how it would be; that achieving professional excellence would require great effort and grit. That afternoon in my journalism class showed me the possibility of a different path. Wandering down to Student Media a few months later, I encountered Wayne again. I was struck by his generosity, and his sincere interest in me. During a tour of the office, he mentioned the Macintosh computer, which I loved, and had used in high school. Wayne asked me to help with layout and design of the school newspaper, and to write a few articles. The time that I spent in Student Media the following day — writing, editing and laying out the features section of the newspaper — represented an inflection point in my life. I found the work to be effortless; the words, the designs, and the technical acumen to put it all together, just flowed out of me. I remember thinking I had been at the office for two hours, only to check my watch and discover I had been there for over seven hours. I suddenly knew what it meant for your vocation, and your avocation, to mesh. From there, I switched to an English major, began working as features editor on the newspaper, and never looked back. With Wayne’s encouragement, I continued into graduate school, using that experience to gain a valuable internship at The Charlotte Observer, and ultimately, a marketing and teaching position at Central Piedmont Community College. Thanks to him, I developed the agency and courage to walk toward myself, and to pursue the work I love. Today, as an educator working with adult learners, I hope that I can honor Wayne’s legacy by empowering students to value their innate gifts, and to work toward a life of meaning and service to others.
– Mark Little, Former Features Editor of the 49er Times, and former editor of etc. magazine
I grudgingly went to UNCC after being rejected by my top-choice college. But because of Wayne Maikranz, I quickly realized I was in the right place. He made UNC Charlotte and Student Media home for me. And I know I’m not alone.
Wayne taught me to write, to design, and to lead. He modeled kindness, understanding and love – of both his students and his lifelong partner, Phillip. He celebrated our wins and mourned our losses. He let us make mistakes and then made sure we learned from them. He wasn’t afraid of having hard conversations. He put his heart and soul into building us into the people we wanted to be. He took great pride in our accomplishments both in media and in life. When I was pregnant years after I graduated, he gave me books from his childhood with handwritten notes to my son. That’s the kind of person he was. – Melissa Treadaway, class of ‘93
Wayne gave me and thousands of other students an environment in which we could learn, grow and thrive. He encouraged, guided, redirected and challenged me, stood by me, and always made me smile. His company, counsel, friendship and trust meant everything to me. It still does--and it always will. – Jason Hughes, The University Times and Sanskrit Literary-Arts Magazine.
Wayne was my feature writing teacher and I was a non-traditional student in my early 30’s, a married mom with two little ones who needed to finish a paused degree. He invited me to come over to the Student Media offices to see the work and meet the staff. I finally agreed to go, but only because he was just too nice to say no to more than once. I had zero desire to add anything else to my schedule and was sure I had little in common with students who were much younger and at a different stage in life.
Turns out, if the only thing you have in common with another is that you both knew Wayne, that was more than enough for a positive connection. Within a week I was on the writing staff of the magazine and years later (35!), am among those who knew Wayne as a student, then colleague, and always, friend.
It would be interesting to know how many people got their first, best, and/or dream job because the recommendation letter Wayne wrote tipped the decision. Or how many students got scholarships, internships, honors, awards, or grad school admission because Wayne took the time to nominate, advocate, praise, and persuade on their behalf? I know I am one of them and I’d bet that others like me could form a line from the top of North Deck to Gate 3 of Jerry Richardson Stadium. - LouAnn Lamb, class of ‘90
Wayne had a gift for making the fundamentals of writing and reporting seem easy. He lifted up students who needed confidence —including me—and focused on strengths with a light heart. In sticky situations, he advocated for us to anyone. He started us out with the finest things in news writing before we struck out on our own. - Wendy Bigham, class of ‘99
Wayne gave me the opportunity to be an actual leader for the first time in my life, and helped me be an actual adult in how I approached my work. No matter how different my work is from my time at the Niner Times, the work ethic Wayne instilled in me from the very start still does, and always will remain. - Hunter Heilman, class of 2018
The Maikranz Family have entrusted arrangements to Cremation Society of Charlotte.