$3.5 Million Gift to Create Student Newsroom at University of North Carolina

By: E&P Staff A $3.5 million gift from an alumnus will fund a major experimental student news project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the school announced Thursday.

The gift from the estate of alum Reese Felts, who died earlier this year, is the largest single gift from an individual in the 100-year history of UNC's School of Journalism and Mass Communications. The donation will fund the transformation of a classroom into a 24-hour newsroom, where students will work with faculty to produce news for a variety of audiences. This newsroom will also function as a research center to investigate different types of audiences and communities, and in tandem with an adjacent computer facility, will create a hub for students in all communications fields.

Felts was a 1952 UNC graduate who worked for nearly 30 years as a radio and television broadcaster in Winston-Salem before retiring in 1980. He spent the majority of his career at WSJS (now WXII).

?The journalism school instilled Reese with an almost-religious awe of the role journalism in our society and the profound importance of a free and responsible press,? said Cowles Liipfert, Felts' attorney and friend, in a statement from UNC.

?Reese's kindness and generosity were well known by many,? Jean Folkerts, dean of the journalism school, said in a statement. ?His gift enables us to do something unique and meaningful for our students.?

This is not the school's first major gift from Felts. In 1996, he endowed an annual $3,000 scholarship for electronic communication students, and in 1997 he named three editing suites in the journalism building. His donation will also fund a distinguished professorship in the school.

?It is fitting that a gift from an older generation of journalists will help our students shape the future of news dissemination,? UNC Chancellor Holden Thorp said in a statement.

UNC is also part of an initiative funded by the Carnegie Corp. and the Knight Foundation that seeks to help journalism education adapt to the challenges of a struggling news industry. It encourages experimental journalism projects, curriculum enhancement and collaboration with other academic disciplines. The school will host a meeting Oct. 4-5 of deans from top journalism programs participating in the Carnegie-Knight Initiative on the Future of Journalism Education.


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