Director of External Relations
College of Liberal Arts
May is a time of celebration and milestones on the University Campus. Students line up on Northrop Mall in their caps and gowns while parents and family members snap photos along the way. It's a beautiful and exciting time here and a great reminder of the reason for our work: our students.
May is also the time that we celebrate in the J-school with our annual Spring Celebration to honor graduating seniors, scholarship recipients and donors. More than 250 students, parents, donors and alumni gathered at McNamara Alumni Center on May 6, 2009, to recognize our students. It was a festive evening, and yet another reminder of the impact of our generous donors and friends like you.
One of our guests at Spring Celebration was Cathy Gustafson, a 1972 alumna who recently designated the SJMC as a beneficiary of her estate. As the program director for Hamline University's master's degree program in nonprofit management, Cathy understands the value of higher education and philanthropy. We are deeply grateful that Cathy thought of her alma mater when making her estate plans. Recently, I had a chance to chat with Cathy about her experience in the J-school and why she felt compelled to make her gift.
"I'm so appreciative of the rigorous education I received at the U," Cathy says. "Being taught by journalism greats like George Hage, Don Gillmor, Irving Fang and Jean Ward was invaluable in providing me with the foundational education essential for competing in the world today. That's where I first learned the value of a balanced and free press. In addition, who can forget that George Hage On the Spot Reporting class that took us into the courtroom and required us to meet a writing deadline the same day? What pressure to produce! And how informative it was to receive his feedback and guidance." Producing a high-quality product on a tight timeline is a skill that she uses every day, she says.
The word "rigorous" came up several times in our conversation. Cathy fondly recalls being put through her paces in all of her journalism classes, being stretched to think critically as well as creatively, and she says the experience made her a better writer and thinker today. She credits her teachers with instilling in her the importance of looking at issues from various points of view--an important and essential tool for any media or communications professional. "Journalism is undergoing such tremendous changes and pressures today. It is essential that students learn about balanced reporting--looking at every issue from a variety of vantage points, digging into the who and why of a story and not just accepting what information they are fed by an agency or company," she says.
A free press is essential in today's complex world and Cathy worries that this value is fading from the journalism profession. "If the press isn't free and responsible for reporting all sides of an issue, how will we, the people, know how to make decisions?" she asks. "We must protect the freedom of the press and ensure that all people, from a wide array of backgrounds, are trained to tell the stories of our day, to speak truth to power."
She was compelled to establish her gift so that financially disadvantaged students will have an opportunity to experience the kind of extraordinary education that she did. "With the rising costs of education, I fear that soon a college education will only be available to the elite, and how can we possibly have a balanced and free press if that's the case?" she asks. "Where does the truth lie in that?"
Cathy encourages other alumni to think about their SJMC training and ask themselves whether it was "a privilege or a necessity to have such an invaluable foundational education." She adds, "It's crucial that those of us who have benefited from the experience take the opportunity to make sure that experience is available to others who hope to pursue their educational dreams."
She has given considerable thought to her legacy at the University and how she can make an impact on the J-school through her personal philanthropy. Planned gifts are a meaningful way to support the SJMC that can provide benefits to you and to the School.
We thank Cathy, and all the members of our Heritage Society, for helping to ensure the enduring success of the SJMC and our future generations of students. We simply couldn't do all that we do without your generosity.
If you'd like to explore your planned giving options, please contact Mary Hicks, director of external relations, College of Liberal Arts, at firstname.lastname@example.org or (612) 625-5031.