In 2012, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University’s School of Engineering announced a $30 million gift from longtime Cosmopolitan magazine editor and author Helen Gurley Brown to establish the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation.
The Institute and the collaboration between the two schools is groundbreaking in that it is designed to encourage and support new endeavors with the potential to inform and entertain in transformative ways. It will recognize the increasingly important connection between journalism and technology, bringing the best from the East and West Coasts.
Of the total gift, each school will receive $12 million for Institute activities. The gift to Columbia’s Journalism School, the largest in its history, endowed a professorship whose holder, Mark Hansen, was appointed in July 2012. The gift to Stanford’s Engineering School will similarly endow the position of the West Coast director. An additional $6 million will go to Columbia which will also pay for the construction of a highly visible signature space at the eastern end of the J-School’s landmark building, featuring a state-of-the-art high-tech newsroom. The funding of the Institute will support graduate and postgraduate fellowships, both at Stanford and Columbia, and competitively-awarded “Magic Grants,” intended to seed the most innovative and promising ideas for future development conceived of by Brown Fellows.
Commenting on the announcement, the late Helen Gurley Brown said, “David and I have long supported and encouraged bright young people to follow their passions and to create original content. Great content needs useable technology. Sharing a language is where the magic happens. It’s time for two great American institutions on the East and West Coasts to build a bridge.”
The east-west collaboration of the two schools will enable students at both institutions to build upon their ideas with professors and innovators at both universities. At both locations there will be a strong emphasis on executing new ideas and demonstrating products and prototypes. The Institute will establish ongoing links to business leaders and media companies to bring its innovations to market. The Institute wil also build upon the work of the J-School's Tow Center for Digital Journalism and its dual-degree M.S. in Journalism and Computer Science program with Columbia's Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“This gift from David and Helen Gurley Brown is truly transformative for the school,” said Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. “As we enter our Centennial year, the Browns’ generosity will enable us to explore new and exciting realms of leadership in our field. We are thrilled to have this opportunity to collaborate with Stanford Engineering.”
“Under Dean Nick Lemann, Columbia Journalism School is building on its tradition of leadership by developing innovative teaching and research addressing the future of a fast changing news media,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger, a First Amendment scholar who has written extensively about press freedom. “We are deeply appreciative of Helen Gurley Brown’s vision in honoring her late husband by bringing together his two alma maters to develop the next generation of digital journalism. We look forward to working with Stanford in seeking new ways for technology and creativity to enhance a robust free press in our society.”
The Institute will have a distinguished board of advisors including leaders from technology, venture capital and media including, among others, Frank A. Bennack, Jr., CEO of Hearst Corporation; Bill Campbell, Columbia’s Chairman of the Board, Chairman of the Board at Intuit and an Apple Inc. board member; and Eve Burton, Vice President and General Counsel of Hearst Corporation.
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