MU receives $30.1 million gift for journalism institute

The University of Missouri on Thursday announced that it has received a gift of $30.1 million to provide permanent funding for the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.

MU said the money, provided by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, is the largest endowed gift to any public college or university in the state. With an endowed gift, the recipient invests the money and maintains the principal, drawing from the income that is generated.

In 2004, the Reynolds Foundation provided $31 million to build the institute’s 50,000 square feet of physical facilities. In 2009, the foundation gave $15 million to operate the institute through June 2015.

Thursday’s gift should keep the center turning out journalists long into the future.

“This endowment ensures that the Reynolds Institute will benefit future generations of citizens with its groundbreaking work on new methods and models of journalism,” MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said in a statement. “We will forever be in debt to the Reynolds Foundation for enabling the university to launch and now make permanent this world-class center of research and service.”

Reynolds, a 1927 graduate of the MU School of Journalism, founded the Donrey Media Group, which operated more than 100 businesses, including newspapers, radio and television stations, and cable TV and billboard companies.

The Reynolds Foundation, in Las Vegas, was founded in 1954 by Reynolds, who died in 1993. The foundation has committed more than $145 million nationwide.

Reynolds has buildings named for him at more than a dozen colleges and universities.

“I know if he was here today he would be proud to have his name associated with the Reynolds Journalism Institute,” said foundation Chairman Fred W. Smith. “This grant will help preserve that relationship into perpetuity.”

Randy Smith, a former Kansas City Star editor and now journalism business professor at MU, said the endowment is good news for journalism and students of journalism.

“The Reynolds Journalism Institute is still quite young, but it’s fast becoming a place where the industry is coming to explore new content and revenue streams,” Smith said. “The institute is a place of hope for all who believe that democracy must be supported by a free and vibrant press.”

Through experiments and research programs aimed at strengthening journalism, the institute looks to find solutions to challenges in media industries, said Randy Picht, the institute’s executive director. An institute fellowship program brings up to six scholars and professionals to campus each year to generate ideas and strategies for the industry.

The foundation’s endowed gift, Picht said, “will mean more partnerships, more solutions and, most importantly, stronger journalism. There is a lot going on in journalism and a lot yet to unfold.”

The largest gift to a public university in the state was $32 million from the Henry W. Bloch Foundation to construct the Executive Hall for Entrepreneurship and Innovation that is being built at the Henry W. Bloch School of Management at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.