$30.1 million endowment allows Reynolds Journalism Institute innovation to continue

Thursday, November 8, 2012 | 8:44 p.m. CST; updated 12:15 p.m. CST, Friday, November 9, 2012
Students study Thursday inside the Reynolds Journalism Institute at MU. The institute received a $30.1 million gift to establish a permanent endowment.

*CORRECTION: The $30.1 million endowment will be invested by the university, and the interest, which is expected to be 4.5 percent, will be put into a fund that the institute can then use for day-to-day operations.

Gifts to MU from Donald W. Reynolds Foundation

Reynolds Journalism Institute:  $74,871,181

Donald W. Reynolds Endowed Chair in Business Journalism: $2,621,500

Reynolds Alumni Center: $8,356,287

Scholarships: $55,500

Geriatric Medicine Training Project: $1,000,000

Total: $86,904,468

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COLUMBIA — The $30.1 million endowment given to the Reynolds Journalism Institute will allow students at the Missouri School of Journalism to continue to benefit from the research and innovation housed there.

And that's probably exactly what Donald W. Reynolds, an MU alumnus, journalist and philanthropist, would have wanted.

MU announced the endowment given by the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation on Thursday morning. It is the largest endowment of any given to a public university in Missouri, an MU spokesman said, and it is the largest endowment and second-largest gift MU has ever received.

The foundation has donated almost $87 million to the university through gifts and scholarships, according to the MU News Bureau. This includes $15 million that MU received in 2009 to provide operating expenses for the institute through June 2015.

The endowment is just shy of the $31 million gift the foundation gave in 2004 to create the Reynolds Journalism Institute — the largest gift in MU's history. The institute opened in 2008.

More than 150 people and several MU and institute administrators were present for the announcement, including Chancellor Brady Deaton, School of Journalism Dean Dean Mills, institute Executive Director Randy Picht, foundation President Steven Anderson and UM System President Tim Wolfe.

Deaton mentioned that many in attendance were also present in 2005 when ground was broken to begin building the institute, located on the northeast end of Francis Quadrangle.

Endowments vs. gifts

Put simply, all endowments are gifts, but not all gifts are endowments. Gifts are typically one-time donations. What makes an endowment special is that it has a principal, or initial amount, that usually does not get spent. The funds that are used are accrued through earnings on that initial amount.

*Colin Kilpatrick, executive director of advancement for the School of Journalism, said the $30.1 million will not be touched. Rather, it will be invested by the university, and the interest, which is expected to be 4.5 percent, will be put into a fund that the institute can then use for day-to-day operations such as salaries, hiring researchers and conducting experiments.

Catey Terry, director of development communications for the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, said the university does have several other endowments that were funded with large, single gifts. After the Reynolds endowment, she said, the next closest ones were at or below $10 million.

According to its website, the Reynolds Foundation will stop making grants by 2022. It was founded in 1954 to help meet the needs in areas Reynolds thought were important.

Although Reynolds left no instructions for how he wanted the funds to be used, those close to him, including the chairman of the foundation, Fred W. Smith, used their judgment to decide how to divide the funds, said Roger Gafke, director of program development for the Reynolds Journalism Institute.

"I think it's great news for the news business because it means we're going to be able to help journalism thrive and be around for a long time," Picht, the institute executive director, said. "And that's very exciting for us, and I hope it's exciting for everyone who appreciates journalism."

So far, the foundation has made gifts to support communities in Arkansas, Nevada and Oklahoma by improving facilities for their nonprofit organizations. It has also donated to further research on fighting atherosclerosis and atherosclerotic heart disease, improve training of geriatric doctors and enhance journalistic training through use of innovation and business journalism, according to the website.

The man behind the foundation

Reynolds was born in Texas, raised in Oklahoma and schooled in Missouri, according to a previous Missourian report.

He graduated from the School of Journalism in 1927. He paid for his education by working summers at a meatpacking plant in Oklahoma. Once he graduated, he bought and sold his first newspaper, the profits of which allowed him to launch Donrey Media Group, the foundation's website said.

After serving in World War II, Reynolds expanded Donrey Media Group, "ultimately owning more than 100 enterprises in the newspaper, radio, television, cable television and outdoor advertising industries," the website said.

Reynolds' business was sold when he died in 1993, and the resulting funds from his estate went on to establish the foundation. The nonprofit charitable corporation is based in Las Vegas and is one of the largest of its kind in the nation, according to a previous Missourian report.

At the announcement Thursday, Anderson, the foundation president, recalled that at the 1992 ribbon-cutting for the Reynolds Alumni Center, he saw Reynolds shed a tear while singing MU's alma mater, "Old Missouri."

Anderson said the institute's performance, programs and impact all came to bear in the decision to keep funding it.

"It's based upon the performance of Dean Mills and his staff and faculty that we were able to make this final endowment," Anderson said.

Funding the institute

Kilpatrick said he wasn't sure how much money it would take to fully endow the institute, but he said the endowments that it currently has give it a solid base to operate into the future. Funding in any given year depends on what projects and programs are taken on, which fluctuate year to year.

"The money from Donald W. Reynolds will provide the necessary money for us to sustain us to make sure we can run the institute," Picht said. "... This is wonderful for us, but we will still be working on some of the other funding sources so that we can keep doing more and more projects."

Aside from the Donald W. Reynold Journalism Institute Permanent Endowment, the institute is funded by three other endowments, Kilpatrick said.

The Dale R. Spencer Free Press Studies Endowment was given in memory of Spencer, a faculty member who taught communications law for many years, Kilpatrick said.

The Edward C. Lambert Innovation Endowment was given by Lambert's family, friends and former students in memory of the broadcast journalist's contributions to the school by bringing NBC affiliate KOMU/NBC on air in the 1950s.

Kilpatrick said the third endowment was made by Gale Arnold, a Washington, D.C., resident whose parents, Walter Sr. and Betty Hussman, met at the Journalism School. The endowment was made in the memory of Arnold's grandparents, C.E. and Bettie Palmer, who founded the Palmer newspapers in Arkansas.

Walter Hussman Sr., who went on to run the newspaper company under the name WEHCO Media, and Reynolds were roommates in college and lifelong friends.

Innovating into the future

At the institute, endowment money is used to fund the projects, research and experiments that research fellows and students take on to help move the industry further along. Picht said he thinks how the institute measures research is what distinguishes it from other journalism institutes and think tanks.

"Research is an important part of what we do because we want to do new things, but we also want to measure the impact they have," Picht said. "Because simply doing new things is fun, but does it move the needle? Does it make a difference for the organization?"

Picht said that this year, some fellows are doing research on new revenue models in journalism. Others are researching how people use tablets to get news and how they engage with a news organization's Twitter accounts.

One class is combining journalism and computer science students to build mobile applications to help news organizations give news and exchange information with people in their communities, Picht said.

"I've been here for six months, and one of the things that I'm trying to do is make sure that what we're working on is what the industry is working on," said Picht, formerly a journalist with the Associated Press. "When the industry identifies something as a problem, I want to know about it so we can work on it."

Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.

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