Indianapolis Community Mourns the Loss of Professor and Theorist Sandra Petronio, Ph.D.

Indianapolis – The family of Sandra Petronio, Ph.D., has announced her passing on April 20, 2024. Dr. Petronio was a professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the Indiana University School of Liberal Arts and the IU School of Medicine on the Indianapolis campus. Dr. Petronio also was a senior affiliate faculty in the Charles Warren Fairbanks Center for Medical Ethics within IU Health. She received her Ph.D. in communication and her M.A. degree in social psychology at the University of Michigan and her B.A. in interdisciplinary social sciences at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. She also served as the founding director of the Indianapolis Center for Translating Research into Practice (TRIP).

Dr. Petronio was a highly regarded researcher in the areas of privacy, disclosure, and confidentiality. She was the theorist who developed the Communication Privacy Management (CPM) Theory, widely considered a breakthrough in her field. Her book Boundaries of Privacy: Dialectics of Disclosure won the 2003 Gerald R. Miller Award of National Communications Association and the 2004 IARR Book Award from the International Association for Relationship Research.

“Dr. Sandra Petronio had a profound impact not only on the IU School of Liberal Arts but also across the entire Indianapolis community,” said Tamela Eitle, dean of the IU School of Liberal Arts at Indianapolis. “During her more than 20-year association with Indianapolis, she became known for her teaching and innovative research in the Department of Communication Studies as well as her mentorship and support of other scholars in the department, throughout our school, and across our campus. All of us will continue to benefit from her influence and scholarship for many, many years to come.”

Building on her CPM Theory, Dr. Petronio founded the Communication Privacy Management Center at Indianapolis as a resource center to provide coverage on a wide range of relevant, everyday life issues found in social media, health, family relationships, and organizational management. The center’s resources are used by teachers, researchers, students, faculty, and translational scholars to illustrate issues of privacy management, provide citations for research projects, and foster a network of potential research and collaborative partners.

In addition, Dr. Petronio was the project manager of the Indianapolis TRIP Initiative, Translating Research Into Practice, which evolved into the Indianapolis Center for Translating Research Into Practice (TRIP). Today, TRIP proudly showcases the contributions that Indianapolis faculty make to others. Translational research occurs when researchers and scholars generate new knowledge, collaborate with community leaders and groups, then use this information to develop meaningful, evidenced-based practices that solve problems people face in their everyday lives.

“Dr. Sandra Petronio was overall a remarkable person across all of the roles she held at the university,” said Stephan A. Viehweg, LCSW, IECMH-E®, CYC-P, ACSW, Assistant Research Professor of Pediatrics; Associate Director, Indiana LEND at Developmental Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, IU School of Medicine; and Associate Director, Indianapolis Center for Translating Research Into Practice (TRIP). “Whether as a professor, scholar, leader, or chancellor’s spouse, Dr. Petronio was able to put her heart and soul into the task at hand and support so many other faculty and students along the way. I am proud to have been able to call her a colleague and friend.”

Viehweg continued, “Today, in my leadership role in TRIP, I see the center as carrying out the dreams and ideas Dr. Sandra Petronio put forth many years ago, and we are deeply indebted to her for bringing the idea to campus. Her vision was to promote what it means to put research into practice beyond just generating the knowledge, but connecting faculty, students, and community partners in translating that knowledge to solve problems. Across all our endeavors, TRIP continues to do just that.” Dr. Petronio and her husband Charles Bantz created the Bantz-Petronio TRIP Award in 2013 to recognize outstanding translational research on the Indianapolis campus.

Dr. Petronio also established the Indianapolis Petronio Communication Privacy Management Dissertation Fellowship that supports an annual fellowship to an outstanding doctoral student from a United States accredited university who has completed coursework and successfully defended a dissertation proposal that utilizes CPM theory and research.

“Dr. Sandra Petronio will be remembered a true trailblazer and a prolific scholar with both national and international influence,” said Dr. Jennifer Bute, professor of Communication Studies in the IU School of Liberal Arts, selection committee chair for the Communication Privacy Management Dissertation Fellowship, and translational scholar in the Indianapolis Center for Translating Research Into Practice. “Her development of Communication Privacy Management Theory has shaped the field of communication studies by pushing scholars to conceptualize privacy as not just about the self but as a communicative process.

“Dr. Petronio also spearhead the development of the Ph.D. program in health communication. She was a generous and thoughtful mentor to students and junior faculty. Her legacy is symbolized by the Indianapolis Petronio Communication Privacy Management Dissertation Fellowship, established by Dr. Petronio and her husband to support Ph.D. students using CPM in their dissertation research.

“Moreover, Dr. Petronio influenced my career at every stage—from her visit to the University of Illinois to meet with me when I was a Ph.D. student, to her guidance at the National Communication Association Doctoral Honors seminar, to the influence of CPM theory on my own program of research, to her direction during my promotion and tenure process. She truly has left an indelible mark on my success and the success of our department and the campus.”

A lifelong servant leader, Petronio was past president of the International Association of Relationship Research and the Western States Communication Association. She was the associate editor of the Journal of Family Communications. She received numerous awards including the prestigious National Communication Association Bernard J. Brommel Lifetime Award for Excellence in Family Communication Scholarship and Service (2003) and the Indianapolis Spirit of Philanthropy Award (2021).

Petronio was the wife of Charles R. Bantz, who served as Indianapolis chancellor from 2003-2015.

Celebration of Life Information

A Celebration of Life celebration is planned for Dr. Sandra Petronio on Tuesday, May 21, from 2-5 p.m., at the Indiana Landmarks Center (1201 Central Avenue, Indianapolis, IN 46202).

If you may be able to attend, please respond by emailing Dawn O. Braithwaite or by calling 402-540-8414.

In lieu of flowers, please consider a gift to the Alzheimer’s Association in memory of Sandra Petronio or to the IUPUI Petronio Communication Privacy Management Dissertation Fellowship Award at Indiana University.