Journalism gets a $500,000 donation

Mai Hoang

The School of Journalism and Broadcasting has a new building, and now it has some money to help staff the place.

Margaret and Cal Turner Jr. gave $500,000 to Western that will help create the Cal and Margaret Turner Professorship in Journalism.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Regional University Excellence Trust Fund, or Bucks for Brains, will match the gift, bringing the total endowment of the professorship to $1 million.

The donation will help fund a new faculty position.

“My family and I have been blessed by Western,” said Cal Turner Jr., the retired chairman and chief executive officer of Dollar General. “It’s an honor to do this for Western.”

Turner said his wife took classes on the Hill, and several of his teachers at Scottsville High School went to Western when it was a teacher’s college.

President Gary Ransdell said the Turners’ donation was an open gift, which meant he and others had the opportunity to decide what needs could be met with their gift.

They first agreed that the donation would be a professorship. Ransdell then chose the journalism school as its recipient.

“We really needed to close a professorship gift for journalism, given its program-of-distinction status,” Ransdell said.

Turner said the donation was given, in part, as a sign of support to Ransdell.

“Gary Ransdell is doing a great job, great job,” Turner said. “He’s a fine leader.”

Tom Hiles, vice president for Institutional Advancement, said it is unusual for a donor to allow the university to choose what department the gift would help.

“I think it speaks to Dr. Ransdell’s support of journalism, and that he wants to support our number one program,” he said.

Pam Johnson, director of the School of Journalism and Broadcasting, said she was pleased with the professorship and would find it helpful for promoting the school’s already strong program. She also said it showed that there was confidence in the program.

She said it will be up to the faculty to decide the duties, guidelines and features of the chair, such as which department will receive it.

The professorship’s recipient will be selected by a committee.

Johnson said she would use the professorship to attract major professionals in the field.

“If you have a chair , it’s an honor to be selected for that chair,” she said. “You get a higher caliber person.”

There are several organizations and corporations Johnson said she would like to pursue for other professorships.

She said she would like to have an endowed professorship for each of the journalism school’s departments. She is optimistic that the school can get more professorships.

“Since he made the first one, it’s much easier to get the other chairs,” she said.

Johnson became the journalism school’s director in July. Hiles said he is confident in Johnson’s ability to help obtain other professorships.

“She has a vision,” he said, “and a lot of important contacts that we haven’t had access to before.”

Reach Mai Hoang at [email protected]