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Al Rossiter Jr.

Reporter, United Press International

Al Rossiter Jr. was a science writer, editor and executive during a 32-year career with United Press International and then spent more than a decade as a senior public affairs administrator at Duke University.

Rossiter retired from UPI and moved to Duke in March 1992 after rising through the ranks of UPI to become its editor and executive vice president, responsible for the company’s worldwide editorial operations.

At Duke, Rossiter was director of the news service and assistant vice president in the university’s office of public affairs until he retired in December 2001. He continued to work on a part-time basis as an associate dean at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

Rossiter was an award-winning science writer for much of his career with UPI. As a reporter, his science beat took him to the South Pole, West Africa, the wreck site of the USS Monitor 220 feet deep in the Atlantic Ocean and 10 miles high in high-performance aircraft. He was one of the finalists in NASA’s Journalist-in-Space program.

Rossiter joined the international news organization as a staff writer in 1959 in Atlanta, moved to UPI’s Richmond, Va., bureau in 1961 and was named manager of the Cape Canaveral bureau in 1963.

He specialized for 10 years in covering the nation’s space program, concentrating on the Apollo manned lunar landing program and the preceding two-man Gemini spaceflights that pioneered the rendezvous and docking operations that are commonplace in space today.

Rossiter was appointed UPI’s science editor in 1973 and moved to Washington to direct the agency’s coverage of space, medicine and the sciences from around the world. He developed an award-winning staff of seven full-time science writers and initiated a weekly package of science news features, the first of its kind in the wire service business.

In addition to the Apollo moon flights, space shuttle missions and unmanned planetary missions, Rossiter covered major stories such as the outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease in Pennsylvania, the pioneering artificial heart transplants in Utah and Kentucky and the Three Mile Island nuclear accident.

He was appointed executive editor of the agency in 1987, directing the production and editing of UPI’s news services worldwide and for all markets from the company’s world headquarters in Washington. He was named executive editor/senior vice president in 1988 and editor and executive vice president in 1991.

Rossiter received numerous awards for his writing and reporting on the space and science beat, the most recent of which was the prestigious 1987 Grady-Stack Medal from the American Chemical Society.

He was a member of the American Society of Newspaper Editors, National Association of Science Writers and the Education Writers Association. He served for five years as a member of the national advisory board of the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism at the University of Maryland and later was a member of the advisory board for the Graduate Medical Journalism Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He is listed in Who’s Who in America.

Rossiter was born in Elmira, N.Y., on March 2, 1936. He graduated from Rutgers University with a degree in geology in 1958 and studied geological sciences at Emory University Graduate School in 1959.

Rossiter is married to the former Sylvia Vanlandingham of Soperton, Ga. They live in Washington, N.C., and have two adult children, Alec III and Jill.