Jack Orwant, a communications professor at American University who retired in 2006, died Dec. 15 at his home in Rockville. He was 81.

The cause was complications of myasthenia gravis, a rare neurological disease, said his son, Jon Orwant.

Dr. Orwant moved to the Washington area and joined the American University faculty in 1970. He was a lifelong student of the literature and poetry of World War II. In retirement he published three collections of his poetry.

Jack Elliott Orwant was born in Detroit. He graduated from the University of Michigan in 1956, served in the Army and received a master’s degree in journalism at Michigan in 1964. He received a doctorate in mass communications at the University of Iowa in 1970 and a master’s degree in statistics at American University in 1983.

His wife, Carol Cohen Orwant, whom he married in 1958, died in 2007. Survivors include his partner of two years, Jacqueline Gallagher of Washington; a son from his marriage, Jon Orwant of Brookline, Mass.; and two granddaughters.

Bart Barnes