Former KU writing coach Thien dead at 73

Posted August 26, 2013

Richard “Dick” Nash Thien, 73, a longtime newspaper editor who worked in several states and coached countless young journalists, died of natural causes Friday at Missouri Baptist Hospital in St. Louis.

Thien was a longtime coach in the Chips Quinn Scholar program for young minority journalists. He worked with interns, staff and editors across the country, including those at The Tennessean, from 1991 to 2007.

In 1981, then-Gannett CEO Al Neuharth handpicked Thien as a founding editor to help create USA Today, a national newspaper that made its debut the following year.

Thien, a 1958 graduate of Cleveland High School in St. Louis and a 1963 graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, served in the U.S. Army, stationed at Fort Sill, Okla., and was honorably discharged in May 1969 as a first lieutenant, field artillery.

He taught editing, writing and design at the State University of New York in Binghamton, the University of Kansas in Lawrence and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He earned his master’s in journalism from UN-L in 1998.

“He was inspirational,” said son Mark Thien, a Nashville public relations professional and executive director of the Clean Water Project. “My brother and my sister followed in his footsteps and are still in the industry. Dad inspired thousands of young journalists, young and old. It was a long, productive and meaningful career in journalism.”

Survivors include his wife, Elaine, three children and three grandchildren. Visitation will be 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Kutis Affton Chapel, 10151 Gravois Ave., Affton, Mo., with the funeral service there at noon Friday.