School of Media and Journalism receives $10 million gift, makes new facility plans

Story by The Daily Tar Heel
Originally published Nov. 2, 2018, on dailytarheel.com

UNC has received a $21.275 million donation from the Curtis Foundation, a portion of which will go toward the construction of a new facility for the UNC School of Media and Journalism, the University announced Friday.

$10 million of the total sum will go toward the – the largest gift in the journalism school’s history.

The Curtis Media Group will be designed to encourage collaboration, transparency and hands-on learning to prepare students for the rapidly shifting world of communications, according to a release from UNC Media Relations.

“In short, I think this is a payback,” said Curtis. “This is a return on the state’s investment in me as a student.”

Curtis graduated from UNC in 1963 with a degree in journalism and went on to found Curtis Media Group five years later. The broadcast management company currently owns and operates 25 radio brands across North Carolina.

The center won’t just benefit journalism students, Curtis said, but students across departments looking to improve their media and communication skills.

“It’s going to say in it’s very being what our business, both journalism and communications, is all about,” said UNC School of Media and Journalism Dean Susan King of the new facility’s design, which will allow for passerby to see into the building.

“(Students) will be able to see the work that goes on so it’s not so much a mystery,” King said

Journalism and communication in general is “radically” different from when Curtis attended UNC, King said, in the days when radio and TV reigned supreme.

“Now, anyone is a publisher,” King said, and it's crucial that students are able to experience “the media being a part of their learning.”

The Curtis family has long had an impact on UNC School of Media and Journalism students with the Don and Barbara Curtis Excellence Fund for Extracurricular Activities, a monthly award that allows media and journalism students to receive funding during the academic year for “meaningful out-of-class activities that will help them in their careers.”

One such student is Katy Dettmer, who will speak at the event announcing the donation at 4 p.m. Friday. The fund allowed Dettmer to spend last summer living and interning in Chicago.

Dettmer is just one of many students affected by the Curtis’ generosity, she said. It seems, with construction of the media center, the Curtis’ impact is about to grow exponentially.

“It really just demonstrates how the School of Media and Journalism has really stayed at the forefront of innovation and forward thinking,” Dettmer said. “And this building is just a physical representation of that.”

$3 million of the total donation will go toward the Athletic Department and another $3 million toward UNC Hospitals and the School of Medicine. $2 million will be used to expand the Curtis Fund, and $8 million will be used for the new facility. $5.275 million will fund other causes to be determined at a later date, the University said in a press release.

The Curtis Foundation's gift supports the $4.25 billion goal of the Campaign for Carolina, an ambitious fundraising campaign launched by the University last October.

Dean King said it’s a privilege to receive such a gift and better prepare students for work in a rapidly changing media landscape.

“This will say loud and clear, ‘Journalism is alive and well,’” King said. “‘The media is a touchpoint for democracy, and it’s open and available to every student at (in) UNC.’”