$2 million expansion of USD media center planned Allen Neuharth told a packed Knutson Theatre last Thursday that USD has made giant strides since he graduated 50 years ago, but the best is yet to come. "We are on the threshold of real excellence as one of the best small-sized public-supported universities in the nation," he said. by David Lias At one time, the building was known as the New Armory, and was the site of major indoor athletic activity on The University of South Dakota campus.
Today, the 72-year-old building is known as the E.O. Lawrence Telecommunications Center and serves as the home of South Dakota Public Broadcasting.
In approximately three years, a $4.5 million renovation of the building will be complete, and it will be known as the Al Neuharth Media Center.
The state-of-the-art all-media facility is being funded with a $2 million gift from the Freedom Forum, an international free-press foundation founded by Neuharth, and with additional financing arranged through the USD Foundation. Completion is expected during the 2002-2003 academic year.
The Al Neuharth Media Center will house all media-related organizations and student activities on campus. The roles will include the Department of Mass Communications, the Volante student newspaper, South Dakota Public Broadcasting, student campus radio and television, and The Freedom Forum Neuharth Center offices.
Neuharth said at a Thursday afternoon press conference at the telecommunications building that he expects the
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new media center will spawn a new generation of journalists following in the footsteps of USD graduates such as NBC Anchor Tom Brokaw, Washington This Week anchor Ken Bode and himself.
"The media is the glue bringing this globe together," he said.
However, that media is rapidly changing through satellites and the Internet, he said.
"We are one global village linked electronically. There are no more barriers," he said. "People have an insatiable appetite for information anywhere in the world. They want to do more, know more and be more. They want information ? night or day, at work or play."
Charles L. Overby, chairman and chief executive officer of The Freedom Forum, presented a $2 million check to USD Foundation Board Chairman Dean Belbas and USD President James W. Abbott at the press conference.
The $2 million check allows project design to proceed immediately because the South Dakota Board of Regents and the USD Foundation Board of Trustees have already approved preliminary plans.
"This $2 million for improved facilities is part of an ongoing partnership with USD that honors the legacy of Al Neuharth, but � more importantly, will help thousands of future journalists," Overby said.
The Internet has dramatically altered communication, Neuharth said, and the future could produce media "not even dreamed about."
The Neuharth Center will help prepare students for the new frontiers, he said. "It's an awesome challenge, but a mind-boggling opportunity."
The Freedom Forum Neuharth Center offices and Volante will relocate from the Coyote Student Center, and the ROTC and military science programs that currently are housed in the building will move elsewhere on campus.
USD President Jim Abbott said the new facilities will provide new opportunities.
"The University of South Dakota is extremely fortunate to have Al Neuharth not only as a graduate but as a tremendous supporter of campus student media programs," Abbott said. "The Freedom Forum gift will allow us to move forward immediately with the new Media Center to be named in Al's honor."
Neuharth said he "gratefully accepted President Abbott's gracious gift to put my name on this building because I believe he and USD are committed to an outstanding center for journalistic excellence which will benefit the students nationwide, the entire university community and the state of South Dakota."
"This gift supports the foundation's mission of helping USD become the best small state university in the nation. Previous Freedom Forum gifts have helped attract outstanding aspiring journalists, build one of of the nation's best student newspapers and provide an outstanding faculty advisor for the program," Belbas said. "This gift now gives us the opportunity for new facilities to strengthen our overall mass communication programs."
Neuharth, who edited the Volante in 1949, went on to build the nation's largest newspaper company at Gannett and then founded USA TODAY, the country's biggest newspaper, with a daily circulation of more than 2 million.