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Column: RJI endowment smart choice to ensure institute’s perpetuity

Mara Somlo

Nov. 27, 2012

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

The MU Reynolds Journalism Institute recently received another generous endowment from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation. The $30.1 million gift ensures the institute will continue its focus on journalistic practices and virtues and lead the way as a role model of journalism in a democratic society, Reynolds Foundation President Steven Anderson said in a news release.

Throughout the years, the foundation has granted more than $47 million to the School of Journalism. To put that in perspective, that is more than 50 percent of the foundation’s overall donations. The recent endowment is also the largest single gift in MU’s history.


To most readers, the endowment seems so large that one could not possibly figure out where and how to spend the money. There might be worry that the money will go to waste. But it should only be a small concern.

MU will not be getting the millions all at once, but rather about $1.5 million a year, as a result of the endowment’s precipitated allowance. That isn’t too much to handle.

Financial endowments are normally arranged as trusts, public charities or private foundations, such as the Reynolds Foundation. Unlike receiving an ordinary donation, endowments can have their restrictions. Some require the money to be spent on particular things, and others, such as MU's, are to be invested with the idea that it will be permanently stable, causing the donation to have a greater influence throughout time.

I see the benefits of having an endowment: Power is not abused, there is thoughtful decision-making in terms of deciding how to spend the money and it prolongs MU’s reign over the journalism field. But universities have also been criticized for stockpiling too large of a portion of the endowment, and the current payout rate is not high enough for reinvestment to be worth it.

Though the money will still make a difference no matter how much of it the university decides to reinvest, I am afraid the positive results we seek will develop too slowly as a result of our efforts to conserve the revenue. The terms of the endowment are not to be toyed with, and what the money will be spent on has yet to be determined. In order to have the prestigious journalism institute we aim and claim to have, we must be sure to keep enough funds for the future but remember there is no time like the present.

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