NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams headlined the public kickoff of fundraising for Elon’s new communications facilities.
Elon University launched the public phase of its fundraising drive for new School of Communications facilities at an Oct. 16 gala event for alumni, parents and friends at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor Brian Williams, national chair of the school’s advisory board and father of Elon graduate Douglas Williams ‘13, emceed the event. More than 1,000 members of the Elon community turned out to add their support to the $15 million campaign and learn details about the new buildings.
President Leo M. Lambert announced that more than $8 million has already been raised for the project, and he asked all members of the Elon family to contribute to reaching the fundraising goal by the end of 2015, allowing construction to begin in early 2016.
“Tonight we are announcing a capital fundraising campaign to expand the School of Communications from 40,000-square-feet to more than 100,000-square-feet and to provide one of the nation’s finest programs with one of the nation’s finest facilities,” Lambert said. “It’s our top capital priority right now and it’s one that I know many of you are going to help support.”
Williams illustrated the quality of Elon’s communications program by describing the work of two alumni who work for NBC Nightly News, Katie O’Brien ’12 and Julie Morse ’13. “They’re superb,” Wlliams said. “They are emblematic of Elon kids. There’s no entitlement. They’re hustlers – they go after it.”
Williams detailed a long list of distinctions and recognitions for the School of Communications, concluding, “There is a reason that when Elon was last up for reaccreditation the report said that the school’s growth in quantity and quality was nothing short of spectacular.”
Williams and his wife, Jane, have made a gift to name one of the school’s broadcast studios, which is located in the existing McEwen Building. The renovated studio will include a digital news headline ticker framing an exterior window that opens onto a plaza that provides a new pedestrian entrance to campus at the corner of Williamson and Lebanon avenues.
The School of Communications campaign will fund construction of two new buildings and renovation of two existing facilities, nearly doubling the total amount of space supporting the school’s programs. The project will bring together all of Elon’s communications and student media programs into a quad that will frame Under the Oaks, the historic grove on the central campus.
The main new building will be a two-story, 45,000-square-foot facility that is larger than the size of McEwen Building. It will include a large media innovation lab and four additional media labs, three classrooms, seven student engagement spaces, 29 faculty offices, the Dean’s Suite, and the 250-seat Turner Theatre, funded by a gift by Elon parents Jim and Toni Turner and their sons Garrett ’08 and Parker ’06. The theatre will serve as a showcase for student productions, including a high definition screen, stadium-style seating and a premier sound system.
The new building will be connected to McEwen Building by the Snow Family Grand Atrium, a two-story glass structure that will include a large video screen that will feature student productions and daily world news broadcasts. The atrium will be named for David and Lynette Snow, parents of current Elon communications student, Lauren Snow ’16.
A gift by an anonymous family will name the second new building funded by the campaign. A 4,800-square-foot pavilion will sit in front of Whitley Auditorium and between Long Building and the new communications building. The pavilion will be the home of the internationally renowned Imagining the Internet Center, along with a media analytics lab, four faculty offices and a student-faculty research area.
“There are many families who embody the philanthropic spirit of Elon and have propelled us more than half way to our goal,” Lambert said. “I hope every alumnus, parent and friend who is connected to Elon, and especially the School of Communications, will consider making a difference to this campaign.”
The kickoff gala featured a panel discussion moderated by Brian Williams about the impact and quality of Elon’s School of Communications programs. CBS 60 Minutes producer Michael Radutzky, chairman of the school’s advisory board and father of an Elon graduate and a current student, said Elon has a long history of placing successful interns at the top-rated news program.
“No one at 60 Minutes asks where our interns go to college, because they all go to Elon,” Radutzky said. “They have those skill sets and they come ready to play… it’s called engaged learning – what they learn in the classroom is further developed on the Elon campus and in the wider community.
Maity Interiano ’07, a popular anchor and host for the Univision television network and native of Honduras, said when she came to Elon she knew she wanted to work in communications. “Elon gave me the background to become a journalist and Elon gave me the confidence that I needed as an international student,” Interiano said.
Douglas Williams ’13, who currently works for the YES Network covering Major League Baseball, said Elon’s outstanding communications facilities gave him a head start on his career, and the program made him more versatile. “It does such a good job of helping you become a well-rounded student and that’s all you can ask for as a college student,” Williams said.
Elon senior communications major Jasmine Turner called Elon the “land of opportunity … with professors and students who push me to be the best I can be.” Senior Ryan Greene said on her first visit to campus she “immediately noticed the passion that everyone at Elon has … everybody loves what they’re doing.“
Elon student media will benefit greatly from the major remodeling project being planned for McEwen Building, which will provide new offices for The Pendulum, ESTV/Elon Local News, WSOE Radio and the Phi Psi Cli yearbook. McEwen will also include an Internships/Career Services Center, while the Live Oak Communications student agency will be located in the new communications building.
The campaign will also fund renovation of Long Building, which will be the new home of the Interactive Media master’s program along with offices for the Sport and Event Management program.
The hundreds of alumni who attended the gala included many who are currently pursuing successful communications careers. They said the new communications facilities are essential for the future of the school’s programs.
“It’s important to upgrade – technology is moving so fast that you have to stay ahead of the curve,” said Randy Gyllenhaal ’10, a news reporter for WCAU-TV in Philadelphia.
“There’s so much potential there – I know that the faculty is so strong and the students are really going to grow because of the new facility,” said Shelley Russell, an undergraduate School of Communications alumna and a graduate of the Interactive Media master’s program. She is currently a senior digital producer for Click3X in New York.
The gala was sponsored by Elon trustee Ed Doherty and his wife Joan, who have a long history of generous contributions to the university and have made the annual Evening for Elon events in New York possible. The Doherty’s daughter, Kerry Doherty Gatlin ’07, concluded the evening on behalf of her family.
“As a communications major, I am looking forward to seeing what Elon has planned with its expansion and the opportunities to provide for its current and future students,” she said. “It is important that all alumni remain connected to Elon as partners, advocates and investors. We must continue to support the school that means so much to us. Remember, every little bit counts and continue to show everyone else how amazing Elon University is.”
Watch a fly-through video of plans for the new facilities, which premiered at the gala with an introduction by Paul Parsons, dean of the Elon University School of Communications: