Reynolds Journalism Institute guaranteed funding through large gift

The Donald W. Reynolds Institute donated more than $30 million to ensure RJI’s future.
Chancellor Brady Deaton speaks with media members and U-M system dignitaries at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute on Thursday. Chancellor Deaton announced the university received a $30.1 million endowment from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation to fund research in journalism.

Chancellor Brady Deaton announced a $30.1 million gift from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation on Thursday.

The donation will go toward the establishment of an endowment benefitting the Reynolds Journalism Institute. It is the third gift from the Foundation since 2004 and is the largest amount given to a public university or college in Missouri specifically for an endowment.

In 2004, the gift of $31 million to build and fund the Reynolds Journalism Institute was the largest single gift in MU's history. That gift was followed by an additional $15 million, which would cover the cost of operation for the institute until 2015.

“I think it’s fair to say we would not be here today were it not for a scrappy young man from Oklahoma City named Donald W. Reynolds,” Deaton said.

Reynolds graduated from MU in 1927 and quickly went on to buy his own newspaper, which was then sold to fund the creation of the Donrey Media Group. He also served in World War II and, once he was discharged, went on to build up Donrey until he owned over 100 news enterprises, focusing on small, local communities.

With his wealth, Reynolds founded the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which awards donations such as those given to MU. The most recent announcement of more than $30 million ensures that the Reynolds Journalism institute will be funded far into the future.

“This endowment ensures that the Reynolds Institute will benefit future generations of citizens with its groundbreaking work on new methods and models of journalism,” Deaton said. “We will forever be in debt to the Reynolds Foundation for enabling the university to launch and now make permanent this world-class center of research and service.”

The excitement over the donation was shared by many in the MU journalism community. Randy Picht, who became executive director of the Reynolds Journalism Institute in April after a long career with the Associated Press, said that the donation will have an impact that reaches far beyond the walls of the institute.

“This is great news for the news business,” Picht said. “It will mean more partnerships, more solutions and, most importantly, stronger journalism.”

Fred Smith, chairman of the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, said that the gift expresses the trust that the foundation has in MU.

“The Reynolds Journalism Institute is still quite young, but it’s fast becoming a place where the industry is coming to explore new content and revenue streams,” Smith said. “The institute is a place of hope for all who believe that democracy must be supported by a free and vibrant press.”

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