The Belo Foundation, Philanthropists Commit $15 Million to The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication

Sept. 6, 2007

AUSTIN, Texas—The Belo Foundation of Dallas, Robert W. and Maureen H. Decherd (BA ’73), and the estate of James M. Moroney Jr. (BA ’43) and the Jim and Lynn Moroney Family Foundation have pledged $15 million to establish the Belo Center for New Media at The University of Texas at Austin College of Communication.

The center will be named in recognition of the role played in Texas history by Colonel Alfred Horatio Belo, the original owner of The Dallas Morning News and among the first class, with three other industry pioneers, inducted into the Texas Newspaper Foundation Hall of Fame.

The gift is the largest donation ever made by The Belo Foundation and is the first pledge made toward the College of Communication to build the new center.

The current three-building College of Communication complex was completed in 1974 to serve 1,000 students. Today, the college serves more than 4,200 students. The Belo Center for New Media will augment teaching and research space for the college. The two-year construction project should break ground in January 2009. Construction costs for the center, projected to be between 100,000 and 125,000 square feet, are estimated to be $45 million.

The gift was announced today (Sept. 6) at a news conference hosted by University of Texas System Regent John W. Barnhill, University of Texas at Austin President William Powers Jr., and College of Communication Dean Roderick P. Hart.

Robert Decherd, The Belo Foundation’s chairman and chairman and CEO of Belo Corp.; James M. Moroney III (MBA ’83), The Dallas Morning News publisher and CEO, and a member of the College of Communication Advisory Council; and Maureen H. Decherd, president of The Decherd Foundation, took part in the press conference.

The Belo Center for New Media will enable students to combine traditional and progressive media methods to shape the ideas and create the techniques that will change the face of communication in the future. The facility will be at the northeast corner of Dean Keeton and Guadalupe streets, now a parking lot across from the College of Communication.

“The Belo Foundation has a long history of supporting journalism education and is proud to be the founding sponsor of the Belo Center for New Media,” said Robert Decherd. “We are living in the fastest changing media environment in history, which continues to redefine how individuals consume and use media. We share the university’s vision of the future of media and of our obligation to study and examine how emerging technologies impact the way in which we consume and study communication.

“The diversity and rich history of The University of Texas at Austin and the quality of its College of Communication were also important factors in The Belo Foundation and the Decherd and Moroney families making the decision to support the new center.”

Several new and existing research centers and institutes will be in the Belo Center for New Media, including the Center for Childhood Communication, the Executive Communication Institute, the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas, the Speech and Hearing Center, the University of Texas Documentary Center and the University of Texas Film Institute, among others.

“The College of Communication’s exceptional students, outstanding faculty and extraordinary growth position it to define and lead communication education and scholarship in the 21st century,” Powers said. “The Belo Center for New Media is the keystone to that vision.”

The new building will feature state-of-the-art classrooms, advanced production labs and seminar rooms, along with large auditorium spaces for introductory classes, film showings and conferences.

“Technology is creating new communication protocols that are challenging every aspect of our lives—from how we relate to our children in spite of personal communication devices, to how we become broadly knowledgeable in light of Web-based news tailored to our preferences, to how virtual teams work in the modern corporation,” Hart said. “Examining—and understanding—how these new technologies and processes impact our world requires a paradigm shift in how we study communication. The Belo Center for New Media will enable our students and researchers to gain new insights into these developments.”

The majority of the gift—$12 million—is pledged from The Belo Foundation, established in 1952 to support journalism education, urban public parks and green spaces. The balance of the gift is pledged from Robert W. Decherd and Maureen H. Decherd, and the estate of James M. Moroney Jr. and the Jim and Lynn Moroney Family Foundation.

Of the $1.5 million gift from the Decherds, $1 million will be used to create the “Maureen Healy Decherd ’73 Teaching Endowment for English” benefiting the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts. The remaining $500,000 will be used to create the “Maureen Healy Decherd ’73 Teaching Endowment for Journalism” benefiting the School of Journalism in the College of Communication. Both endowments will create stipends for non-tenured faculty and doctorate candidates engaged in teaching activities related to literature, American society or U.S. media.

The foundation and the families affiliated with it have a long history of support for The University of Texas at Austin and for the College of Communication, in particular. The college has three endowed professorships and one scholarship resulting from the family’s generosity.

About The Belo Foundation

The Belo Foundation concentrates its financial support on two main areas of longtime interest to the company's founders and management: urban public parks and green spaces; and, college-level journalism education. During the foundation’s 55 years of philanthropy it has awarded more than $39 million in grants.

About the College of Communication at The University of Texas at Austin

Established in 1899, the College of Communication is the largest and most comprehensive communication college in the country. Each of its five departments—advertising (including public relations), communication sciences and disorders, communication studies, journalism and radio-television-film—features nationally recognized researchers and alumni, including 19 Pulitzer Prize winners. For more information, visit the College of Communication.

For more information contact: Erin Geisler, College of Communication, 512-475-8071.