Moody Foundation

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Rosales and Partners

For Roderick Hart, dean of the Moody College of Communication, the sky bridge that will connect the Belo Center for New Media to the Jones Communication Center will serve both functional and symbolic purposes. 

The funding for the pedestrian bridge came as part of the Moody Foundation of Galveston’s $50 million donation to the college in October 2013, when the college became its namesake. Slated for completion by December 2015, the bridge will stretch across Dean Keeton Street, connecting the second floor of the Belo Center to the fourth floor of Communication Buildings A and B. Hart said the structure will serve as a gateway to the campus and as a visual connector for the college.

“The bridge has always been important to me,” Hart said. “My main concern was to kind of pull the College of Communication back together physically and visually.”

Before the Belo Center opened in November 2012, the college’s faculty shared cramped quarters in the two Jones Communication Center buildings, known as the CMA and CMB. Since the college expanded across Dean Keeton Street — creating a physical division — Hart said his goal has been to maintain the collegial bond between the college’s various departments.

“My concern was that we would lose that sense of connection with one another,” Hart said. “The departments have always gotten along really well.”

Of the $50 million donated by the Moody Foundation, $3 million is going toward construction of the sky bridge and other renovations.

The $3 million budget was a challenge for both Hart and bridge architect Miguel Rosales, who was selected by the Faculty Building Advisory Committee to design the structure.

“I frankly didn’t think we could get something this beautiful for that amount of money, so I’m delighted,” Hart said. “That’s the great value of having someone like Miguel, who can make something look quite elegant and grand yet not have it cost an excessive amount of money.”

Rosales, based in Boston, said the bridge is his first project located in Austin. A main feature of the bridge is its towering center columns, which will serve as the primary support for the walkway.

“I had to try to work within the budget, and I did my best to balance the engineering and aesthetic concerns with the cost,” Rosales said. “I think we achieved a good balance in designing something the school can afford, but, in the same way, something that’s going to be an exciting structure that the students will like to see and cross.”

In August, Hart announced that he will resign from his post in May 2015 after a decade as dean. Hart said securing funding for the sky bridge, along with the construction of the Belo Center, have been high points of his tenure as dean. Hart’s push for funding took nearly seven years to come to fruition. The sky bridge idea bloomed in 2007, when Hart secured funding for the Belo Center, and the Board of Regents approved the project.

“The bridge has always been something that’s been in the back of my head, and we would’ve built it if we had had an extra $3 million when we built Belo,” Hart said.

Severine Halls, senior project manager in UT System’s Office of Facilities Planning & Construction, said the original building plans incorporated the sky bridge.

“We completed design for the Belo Center and the KUT facility with the engineering necessary to ensure that if the dean was successful in securing funding, we knew exactly where the bridge would connect the two complexes of buildings as was his original intent,” Halls said.

It took several months for Hart to negotiate the Moody Foundation donation, beginning with a February 2013 conversation over dinner with foundation trustee Ross Moody. The college received the funds for the bridge, scholarships and renovations to the Jones Communication Center.

Completed in 1972, the Jones Communication Center is marked by the prominent cement grid design of CMA. Nearly 40 years later, the Belo Center architects aimed to construct a complementary structure, according to architecture professor Larry Speck.

“In the design of the new building, they did a good job of having some dialogue back with the old one but not feeling that they had to slavishly replicate something from before,” Speck said. “Dean Keeton [Street] is a big street, and it’s kind of a divider, but I think the bridge will be helpful in knitting the two buildings together both functionally and visually.”

Speck said the bridge might help alleviate both vehicular and pedestrian traffic at Dean Keeton Street and Guadalupe, as well as Dean Keeton Street and Whitis Avenue, two of the busiest intersections on campus.

“Hart would like to make it as easy and convenient as possible for people within those two separate complexes to interact with each other, and he’s smart to do that,” Speck said.

Bridge construction will result in detours for both drivers and pedestrians on Dean Keeton Street. For street closures, Christopher Johnson, development assistance center manager for the City of Austin, said the city requires project engineers to provide a detailed traffic control plan that is then reviewed by the Texas Department of Transportation.

“Obviously, they’d want to minimize the construction to either as few lanes or as short a time as possible,” Johnson said. “But for something like that, there’s no way around it. You cannot safely build something like this and still have a road functioning.”

With a semester left as dean and a year until the bridge is to be completed, Hart said he looks forward to using the bridge as a member of the faculty.

“I will love walking across it and looking at it, even though I won’t be the dean at that time,” Hart said.

Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original version. 

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

Over a dinner at a loud, high-end seafood restaurant in chilly February, Roderick Hart, dean of the College of Communication, found himself in a conversation he didn’t expect to have that night.

Hart was speaking to Moody Foundation trustee Ross Moody about the college’s goals. Naming the college after a donor was the “big enchilada,” Hart said, which prompted Moody to ask how much it would cost to name UT’s College of Communication after his foundation. Leaning back in his chair with a glass of scotch, Hart disclosed the figure the UT System Board of Regents had set for all colleges.

“$50 million.”

As the University repeatedly recounts to alumni and donors that decreased state support means monetary gifts are needed more than ever before, fundraising still remains a discrete process. Stories behind donations, such as the Moody Foundation’s gift, offer rare insight into the fundraising process, the steps deans take in securing donations and their recent increased involvement in development.

The Moody Foundation’s $50 million donation to the University will be celebrated Thursday in a formal ceremony — more than two weeks after Hart told an upper-division communication class about the donation, forcing UT to announce it sooner than it hoped. The donation will help fund several endowments and the construction of a sky bridge connecting the Belo Center for New Media and the Jesse H. Jones Communications Building A. 

Even though the University has a central office dedicated to development and fundraising, individual University deans often play a crucial role in fundraising and raising money for their respective colleges — especially since fundraising has become a more essential element of the University’s budget. State support made up almost half of UT’s budget in 1984, while it makes up only 13 percent of UT’s $2.48 billion budget today. Meanwhile, gifts and endowments have gone up from 3 percent of UT’s budget in 1984 to 10 percent. 

“In the last couple of decades, I think fundraising at the public university domain has been elevated in importance quite significantly,” said former provost Steven Leslie, who oversaw the deans for more than six years before he stepped down from his position this fall.

Fundraising by deans occurs as they court donors, sometimes over an evening dinner and sometimes over a period of many months or even years. Hart called the dinner with the Moody Foundation a “stewardship” dinner — a thank-you for a prior $2 million gift and an effort to seek more support from the foundation.

Hart secured the Moody Foundation gift over a period of several months. After the February dinner, Hart had to seek approval from President William Powers Jr. to continue having official conversations with the foundation. The UT System Board of Regents also had to approve the agreement to attach the Moody name to the college, as the board has jurisdiction over the naming opportunities of buildings and colleges.

After Hart received approval to proceed, the Moody Foundation requested a proposal from him in May. He spent several weeks in the summer crafting a 50-page proposal that included a breakdown of what the college would do with the $50 million, letters of recommendation for the college from prominent donors and a photo of a sky bridge across Dean Keeton Street with the name Moody emblazoned across it. The Moody Foundation approved the request earlier this year.

Hart estimates he has spent a majority of his time in the past 10 years as dean on fundraising, because the college needed additional funds and raising money became the part of the job he enjoyed he most.

“In many ways, fundraising is helping people turn their beliefs into actions,” Hart said. “They say they love the University. They say they love the college. Here is a way of taking action in behalf of those beliefs that you’ve got.”

UT handles fundraising from multiple angles. While a call center works toward collecting small donations from the average alumni, a central development office works with the individual colleges to secure larger grants and donations throughout campus. Colleges have their own development teams that work with the dean. Many colleges have an associate dean who helps deans fundraise, especially when they want to expand a college’s programs or facilities. 

Former UT presidents William Cunningham and Larry Faulkner highlighted the importance of fundraising responsibilities and collaboration between the University’s president and deans. 

“Clearly, in my opinion, the deans and the presidents are the ones who raise the money,” Cunningham said. “If you didn’t enjoy fundraising, you wouldn’t enjoy the job.” 

While Hart said he is unaware if he’s ever been evaluated based on his fundraising capabilities, fundraising is an essential indication in evaluating and hiring deans, Faulkner said.

Postings announcing openings for deans commonly require candidates to have experience in fundraising and development. In a document outlining the expectations of the inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School, UT lists fundraising and developing relationships with the community and external stakeholders as a the dean’s responsibility.

The trend extends beyond UT. A job listing for an engineering dean at UT-San Antonio lists fundraising for endowments and other college activities as part of the dean’s responsibilities. Outside of Texas, job listings for colleges in California and Virginia, among others, indicate deans will be expected to implement a “strong fundraising strategy” and “play a leadership role in the college’s fundraising and external relationship-building.”

Cunningham, who was the dean of the McCombs School of Business before his promotion to president in 1985, said he believes it was his successful fundraising track record that led to his promotion.

“I was only dean for roughly two years, and we raised a million dollars a month for 24 months in a row,” Cunningham said. “Good deans do that. Good deans are out hitting the pavement, talking about the college and why they need external support. It’s just what good deans do.”

After relying on funding allocated from the System for many years, Cunningham said it was during his tenure as president that the University increased its use of using naming opportunities to entice donors.

Despite the importance UT places on development and obtaining large, philanthrophic gifts, the fundraising responsibilities of deans is still dependant on a college’s reputation and academic success. 

“Academic leadership is, in the end, the most important thing,” Faulkner said. “People give gifts because they believe in what is being done in the institution. They’re not just going to give gifts because someone is silver-tongued. So, in the end, it’s what is happening at the colleges. The dean needs to create that reality.”

Hart compares his role to a lobbyist and said asking donors to invest in academic efforts is similar to lobbyists seeking support for policies.

“I don’t have any policies to advance, but I do have a college to advance,” Hart said. “I would go and talk to the devil himself, if necessary, to explain what a wonderful place we are to invest [in].”

In this week's The Daily Texan Podcast, Christine Ayala, Jordan Rudner and special guest Madlin Meckelburg discuss the long discussion at the Student Government meeting on undocumented students. They also discuss the $50 million donation from the Moody Foundation to the College of Communication, and the committee hearings on Wallace Hall.

Tune in every Friday on at 3:30 to join in on The Daily Texan Podcast live.


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.”