$3 Million Gift Honors Dean of Journalism, Mass Communication

An anonymous donor has given $3 million to UNC to endow a new professorship in honor of Richard Cole, dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication for 25 years.

The Richard Cole Eminent Professorship will be the largest endowed professorship in the school and one of the University’s largest. Income from the endowment will provide salary and support to a current school faculty member or funds to help the school attract a distinguished scholar from outside the University.

“I am deeply touched at the thoughtfulness and generosity of the donor and his wife,” Cole said. “They want no personal credit; they just want to help the University and our school.”

Cole will step aside as dean in 2005. In virtually every ranking, UNC’s school is among the top journalism-mass communication programs in the country. Its most recent accreditation report, from the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications last year, said the school is recognized by academics and media professionals as perhaps the best program in the nation.

“Richard has set a standard of excellence that is unmatched virtually anywhere else,” said Chancellor James Moeser. “This professorship is a fitting tribute to his years of dedication to the school and its students.”

On Cole’s watch, the school grew from 265 juniors and seniors to 1,000, and from two sequences in which students could major – advertising and news-editorial – to five, said Thomas Bowers, senior associate dean of the school. The additional sequences are electronic communication, visual communication and public relations. The school also offers specialties in business, community and medical journalism and sports communication.

“There was a lot of interest in those fields, and Richard felt we should grow to meet it,” Bowers said. “There have been other schools that tried to stay traditional in terms of print journalism, but Richard saw the value and great student interest in other specialties and believed it was important to prepare students for careers in those fields.”

The number of faculty members has grown to 44 from 12. In 1999, the school moved to a new, state-of-the-art facility in Carroll Hall.

“He was responsible for moving the school, raising the money to renovate Carroll and raising millions of dollars for professorships and other programs,” Bowers said. First Cole convinced UNC leaders that the school needed the building; then he raised more than $5 million in private gifts to supplement a $5.2 million state appropriation for renovations. His efforts drew donations from nearly every major media company in the country.

Cole also is credited with strengthening the school’s international presence, in Eastern Europe and Africa and in countries including Cuba, Mexico and Russia. For eight years, he was vice president of the worldwide International Association for Mass Communication Research.

Cole joined the school faculty in 1971 and became graduate studies director in 1976. Three years later, at age 37, he succeeded John Adams as dean.

Cole received the Freedom Forum Medal for Distinguished Accomplishments in Journalism and Mass Communication Administration in 1992. The medal, which recognizes lifetime achievement, had been given only three times previously. Cole, then 50, was the youngest recipient ever at that time.

Cole has brought giants in the field of journalism to the school to speak to students and the public; convened numerous panels on timely topics; and welcomed visiting journalists from other countries. He has won a UNC teaching excellence award and holds the John Thomas Kerr Jr. Distinguished Professorship in the school.

“He’s just done a tremendous amount for the school,” Bowers said. “The school will always bear his indelible mark. No other person in journalism-mass communication education in the world has had the impact on a school that he has had on this one.”

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