RIP Jim Mullen, Founder of UNC’s Advertising Program (1922-2014)

By Shawn Paul Wood 

mullenIf you live outside of Tarheel Country, this news may not stop you, but it should. Jim Mullen, who founded the University of North Carolina’s advertising program, died this week at Carolina Meadows Retirement Community, where he lived with his wife, Dorothy.

I didn’t attend UNC, but I heard about Mullen’s legacy through a friend of mine who has a tattoo of tar on his heel (yes, really). That friend, who is something of a bigwig in the advertising world, had to fight back the sadness as he told me. That is the kind of impression that everyone in advertising wants to make on clients, colleagues and people.

While you may not have heard of Mullen personally, he is widely credited with helping the school earn its current prominence in the ad world.

“Jim was an original in so many ways. He was smart, opinionated, witty and wide open to new approaches and potential faculty members with unusual qualifications,” said John Sweeney, a professor of advertising in the school. “He started the advertising specialization here in the days of ‘Mad Men’ yet was never bound to the restrictions or assumptions of that era. His mind was too quick and sharp to be locked into anyone else’s worldview.”

He held bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the University of Minnesota as well as a master’s degree from Harvard University. He was also a World War II veteran. Mullen was 91.