Following $50 million donation by Moody Foundation, College of Communication to be renamed and feature a skybridge

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This rendering, obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act, illustrates the proposed skybridge between the Belo Center for New Media and the Communication A Building. The skybridge will be built as part of a larger renovation of the Jesse H. Jones Communication Complex funded by $5 million of the $50 million from the Moody Foundation and $5 million from the University.

The College of Communication will be getting a new name and a bridge.

The Moody Foundation announced a $50 million contribution to the college on Monday, which will rename the entity to the Moody College of Communication. 

About $5 million of the donation — combined with an additional $5 million from the University — will be used for renovations in the Jesse H. Jones Communication Complex, including the construction of a skybridge across Dean Keeton Street, connecting the fourth floor of the Communication A Building to the second floor of the Belo Center for New Media. 

The endowment, which is the largest given to a public university for the study of communication in the nation, will provide $13 million for graduate student recruitment, $10 million for research and outreach centers and $5 million in department endowments.

“This is a tremendous gift that will create tremendous opportunity for the University,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said. “The Moody Foundation has been very generous with the gift to the University. It will support students, it will support faculty, it will support learning. With this gift, the College of Communication will probably be unparalleled to other communication colleges in the nation.”

The Moody Foundation will also provide $10 million to establish an “idea fund,” which Roderick Hart, dean of the college, said will act as venture capital for ideas in departmental development.

“This really is an important time for the college, not to mention the gift is really, really cool,” Hart said. “For a number of years we’ve wanted to offer in-service training for media professionals, but we [historically] haven’t had the space or luxury of [implementing] it. This really is a transformational gift that will enhance the local and national visibly of the college.”

Mike Wilson, associate dean for external relations for the college, said what differentiates the endowment from others is the majority of the funds directly supporting members of the college. 

“The beauty of this gift, and this is what I think separates it [from other donations] is that the vast majority of the money is going to directly support faculty, students and the programs we have at UT,” Wilson said. “The money has been distributed carefully and with a lot of thought so that every department in the college receives the benefits of the Moody Foundation’s generosity.”

Wilson said discussions about the Moody Foundation’s contribution to the college began over a year ago when the foundation made its initial investment in UT3D — the college’s 3D production program for undergraduates. 

“Through that, I got to know the foundation very well and learned of their past philanthropic interests and found that they were closely related to our own college’s work,” Wilson said. “Ross Moody [trustee of the Moody Foundation] in particular was very interested in doing something of substance within the college and we ultimately talked about the gift that you’re reading about today.” 

The Moody Foundation is named after the late Galveston-based financial magnate, W.L. Moody Jr. and his late wife, Libbie Rice Shearn Moody. Moody Jr., who died in 1954, owned several businesses during his lifetime, including the Galveston News, which he bought in 1923 from Alfred H. Belo — the namesake of the Belo Center for New Media.

Wilson, a journalism graduate of the college, said the donation from the Moody Foundation will greatly affect the college going forward. He said he views the endowment as a legacy that people 100 years from now can benefit from. 

“This is going to be a stellar, stellar shot in the arm for the international positioning of the college that will help us undoubtably recruit the kind of students and faculty and get the kind of notoriety that a publicly-held university wants to achieve,” Wilson said. “I’ve been on the dean’s advisory council for close to a decade and no time in the history of my association with the college have I been prouder or more challenged by what’s going to transpire with this gift.”