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Dr. Hank Roubicek: A Storyteller’s Tale

Dr. Hank Roubicek
Photo: Thomas B. Shea

His “very imaginary world” was filled with varied ambitions.

Talk show host, heart surgeon, trial lawyer. And perhaps, author, radio show host, communication studies professor?

All roads lead to storytelling for Dr. Hank Roubicek.

Roubicek’s story began in Cleveland, Ohio, with his grandparents and mother, who were all Holocaust survivors. His grandfather worked in a paint warehouse; his grandmother wrote price tags, by hand, for a department store; and mother worked at a local jewelry store.

His first job? He rolled carpets…true story.

The Storyteller’s Life

Ironically, Roubicek wasn’t much of a reader as child; however, he has a soft spot for some remedial classics.

“I did love the old ‘Dick and Jane’ series,” said Roubicek, UHD professor of communication studies. “They were short and easy to understand. I mean we have Dick, Jane and Spot. What can be hard to understand?”

His immersion and fascination with storytelling, he credits to his grandmother, who “told great stories,” which stayed with him and influenced his educational pursuit. Roubicek earned a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Ohio State University; a Masters of Arts in Interpersonal Communication and Counseling Psychology from Purdue University, and a Doctorate of Education in Communication Education from the University of Maryland.

It was during his time at Purdue that his love affair with teaching began at the age of 22.

“I never thought about teaching until I was offered an assistantship at Purdue,” he said. “Then, I was hooked. I’ve been addicted ever since.”

For the Love of Radio?

Remember that imaginary world?

“As early as five years old, I used to go into our basement (where my grandmother cooked), and played with her pots and pans,” said Roubicek. “When you speak into a deep pot, you sound like you’re on the radio. She used to come downstairs and say, ‘Very nice. But it won’t help you be a heart surgeon.’”

It was a DJ gig as an undergraduate at Ohio State that turned him onto the airwaves.

“I was a disc jockey with a show that featured hard rock,” he said. “I thought it would make me cool. It didn’t. It didn’t help me meet girls either. But I sure did love radio!”

And, radio loved him back.

“Radio taught me more than the power of expression,” Roubicek said. “It taught me the power of the human spirit.”

For the past eight years, 90.1 KPFT- FM listeners get a dose of Roubicek’s live storytelling on the hour-long program, “So What’s Your Story.” The program’s premise is simple: spotlight regular people with astonishing stories to tell.

“Some stories take us through windows of their souls with astounding personal narratives, while others take us on wonderful excursions into the enchanted worlds that fuel folktales and fables,” added Roubicek. “Every guest takes us on a magical journey then returns us safely to the present.”

Does he have a dream guest? “Mark Twain still tops the list…wit, wisdom, and a flawless sense of humor should never be downgraded,” he said.

As the author of the book, “So, What’s Your Story? Discovering the Story in You,” Roubicek mixes personal stories and anecdotes with fundamental guidelines to help readers understand the basics of becoming a good storyteller.

“Every episode of our lives can be turned into a great story. You just need to know how to deliver it,” Roubicek said.

Radio Comes to UHD

This fall, Roubicek will share his love and knowledge of radio in a new Special Topics Communication 2390 course, “Radio Performance.” The course centers on creating and delivering content for a variety of radio programs. Topics will include voice, audience, scripting, timing, interviewing, methods of banter, ethics and FCC parameters as well as the role of radio in a diverse and changing society.

“This course will also be a venue for building content for our first-ever UHD Internet Radio, which will begin operation in spring 2018,” said Roubicek. “I’m hoping it will also serve to recruit staff and talent for the station.”

The recipient of two UHD Excellence in Teaching Awards (1986, 2017), Roubicek will celebrate 34 years at the University this August. The past president of the Houston Storytelling Guild and former Houston MOTH storytelling champion, he’s been named 17 times as Who’s Who Among College Teachers. He also has lent his credentials as a communication consultant to Exxon, Marriott International, and KFC, to name a few. Roubicek also facilities storytelling workshops for non-profit and educational institutions.