Clear, concise communication defines Claire Wagner

Celebrating 30 years of service


Congratulations Claire Wagner. She retires from Miami March 6.

By Carole Johnson, university news and communications, editor of Miami Matters

Claire Wagner’s name is hard to miss. As a spokesperson for Miami University, she is quoted often.

Her voice is familiar to most of us, too. Call Miami University and wait on hold. Who do you hear touting the best of Miami? Yes. That’s her.

With 30 years at the university, Wagner, the director of university news and communications since 2006, is retiring.

To pay tribute to her, here’s one more interview opportunity. It’s my way of honoring a staff member whose service to Miami is all about the success of others — our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

Clooney on campus

Did I mention George Clooney? Ok, he’s not an alumnus, but Wagner beams at the memory of the famous actor’s visit to campus in November of 2010.

She was exercising at the recreation center (her typical lunchtime break) when she received a phone call (interruptions are also typical). Kristin Erwin Schlotman of Cincinnati’s film commission wanted to bring someone to campus.

“I asked, ‘Is it George Clooney?’” Wagner said. “Who else would be on my mind in 2010?” she asked, grinning.

She fondly remembers walking around the Farmer School of Business with "George and the crew" in fall 2010 and again in February 2011, when parts of “The Ides of March” were filmed here.

“My generation was about George Clooney, but the students were reacting to Ryan Gosling.”

Clooney may still be on her mind, but there are many more people, such as the Dalai Lama and Colin Powell, whose visits to the Oxford campus stand out for her. They represent the kind of high-caliber guests Miami invites to the community.

claires-invitation.pngCommunication with clarity

The memories of those events revolve around the students and employees she’s worked with through the years. They sparked her insatiable appetite to share their successes.

A television journalist before joining Miami in 1990, Wagner started here by producing radio news spots highlighting faculty. Think early podcasts.

“Family Trends” aired on the university’s public radio station at the time, WMUB, and covered faculty expertise. She created the segments using a reel-to-reel tape recorder and distributed them to other Ohio public radio stations. Simultaneously, she began writing for various Miami publications while assisting then-news director, Holly Wissing.

Writing with wondrous words is something she enjoys.

“I like alliteration. I like rhyme. It is a thrill to communicate information to a mass of people and to do it right and do it in a way they understand it and/or enjoy it. I also try to use as few words as possible.”

A fan of simple phrases, she champions brevity and embraces Twitter by being scrupulous in her accuracy.
“A university spokesperson is impacted by the speed of social media,” she said. “Sometimes an off-campus incident is posted to social media before I have learned of it or before I have had time to write a response. That’s a challenge.”

Champion of champions

She’s most proud of communicating about students and getting news coverage about their accomplishments. For instance, she likes to tell the news about our athletes who consistently have the highest grade-point averages in the Mid-American Conference. She also relishes the stories about fraternity and sorority members volunteering in our communities.

“I do regret not having more contact with students because they are so wonderful and inspiring. I love having student employees in the office.”

Among the many who are now in successful careers, Wagner mentioned former student employees Brent Shock (now interim associate vice president for student enrollment and success) and Halie Best (now manager of digital social media in enrollment communications).

My fondest moments with Wagner happened routinely. It’s when a story comes along that defines the ideals of Miami. Check out our news webpage, MiamiOH/news. Professors, students, employees working toward excellence.

Aristotle once said, “We are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act, but a habit.”

Wagner's tenacity for accuracy and diligence in communicating the Miami experience resonates with me. It also projects here on campus, in the news media and in higher education.

That said, what is her final quote?

“I am so proud to be a Miamian,” Wagner said.