COLLEGE PARK – Saying he’s an entrepreneur making an investment in the future, publisher Philip Merrill donated $10 million to the University of Maryland’s journalism college, which was renamed in his honor Friday.
University officials said the gift, announced at a campus luncheon that included Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening, will be used over the next 15 to 18 years for new teaching posts, fellowships, scholarships and equipment.
University President C.D. Mote Jr. said the money will help the college — already recognized as among the best — rise to the top of the nation’s premier journalism schools.
“This is truly a great day,” said Mote, standing under a white “Philip Merrill College of Journalism” banner.
The Merrill gift also kicks off a three-year college drive to raise an additional $20 million for capital improvements, including $7 million to $9 million that officials hope to put toward a new $20 million to $25 million journalism building.
Merrill, publisher of Washingtonian magazine and The Capital newspaper in Annapolis, said he made his gift to help the university continue to take advantage of its location next door to the nation’s capital.
Merrill, 66, was soft-spoken during Friday’s luncheon. He said having the school named after him is not the point. The point is improving Maryland’s journalism program, and improving the quality of journalism as a whole.
“It’s and investment, I’m an entrepreneur,” said Merrill, after posing with Glendening and Mote under the banner bearing his name. “I have every confidence it will pay off.”
The Merrill gift will fund three new journalism chairs and will help fund fellowships, assistantships and scholarships for graduate students as well as undergraduate scholarships, all of which will be named for Merrill’s wife, Eleanor. The money also will help upgrade college equipment.
Journalism Dean Tom Kunkel noted that Merrill’s gift is not an endowment. The money will be used now toward the college’s goal of becoming the country’s No. 1 journalism school.
The money also will help Maryland improve its journalism master’s program, where the college competes directly with Northwestern and Columbia universities, Kunkel said.
Maryland’s graduate program for print journalism was ranked 11th in the nation, behind both Northwestern and Columbia, in a recent survey of journalism and mass communication deans and faculty by U.S. News & World Reports.
The gift was also honored Thursday at a black-tie dinner at the university president’s house that included Vice President Richard Cheney and his wife, Lynne, longtime friends of the Merrills.
At a news conference before Friday’s luncheon, Glendening, a Democrat, ribbed Merrill for his conservative views, saying he wanted to thank Merrill for his gift, “even though you still are wrong in some of those editorials.”
He recalled meeting with Merrill in 1994 to ask him to support his run for governor. Merrill told Glendening he had two passions: protecting the Chesapeake Bay and improving higher education, specifically the University of Maryland.
Merrill recently gave $7.5 million to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. And now he has given $10 million to the journalism college.
“If ever there was a statement of backing his words up with acts of personal commitment, that’s what this statement does,” Glendening said.
Other journalism schools have also recently received large donations. In April, the family of Edward L. Gaylord, publisher of The Oklahoman newspaper in Oklahoma City, gave $22 million to the University of Oklahoma’s college of journalism and mass communications.
Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism plans to break ground this month on the McCormick Tribune Center, thanks to a $20 million grant from the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation.
Maryland’s journalism program has 512 undergraduate and 65 master’s and doctoral candidates. The college publishes American Journalism Review and operates Capital News Service, a student-staffed daily news wire in Annapolis and Washington, D.C. The college also runs UMTV, a cable TV station, and recently launched a news magazine web site, Maryland Newsline.
Faculty members include Gene Roberts, former managing editor of the New York Times, and Washington Post political reporter and columnist David Broder, who joined the faculty last week.