Thursday morning, Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) Executive Director Randy Picht told RJI staff during a fall meeting, “It’s a great day to be at RJI.” I would echo that and also add, “It’s a great day to be a journalist.”

By now you’ve heard RJI’s exciting news — we’ve received a $30.1 million gift to guarantee permanent funding. This gift, which came from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, is the largest endowment gift in the history of the university. The gift establishes a permanent endowment fund that will support ongoing operating expenses. To date, the Reynolds Foundation has generously donated $89,223,309 to the University of Missouri. Learn more about this exciting gift here. If you were not able to make it to the announcement event, the video has been posted on our website.

This is a gift that as Reynolds Foundation President Steve Anderson stated “will support the pioneering efforts of the Reynolds Journalism Institute in perpetuity.”

This endowment is the largest in the history of the university. So, what is an endowment? The Columbia Missourian newspaper dove into the issue deeper in a story published Nov. 8. According to the story, "Put simply, all endowments are gifts, but not all gifts are endowments. Gifts are typically one-time donations. What makes an endowment special is that it has a principal, or initial amount, that usually does not get spent. The funds that are used are accrued through earnings on that initial amount."

RJI has been bubbling with excitement this week, as everyone got ready for the “historic” and “transformational” announcement. We’ve been waiting in suspense all week. The only clue we received was a bottle of maple syrup. I’ll tell you more about that in a minute.

On the day of the announcement, the Palmer Room at RJI was overflowing with people including news media, MU faculty and staff and others who have been essential in the creation and continuation of RJI. It was standing room only.

Speaking of overflowing… Picht shared a fun story during the announcement event about the early days of the university.

In 1918, Walter Williams, who founded the Missouri School of Journalism, and Ward Neff, a J-School alumnus, came together for breakfast one day. As Williams poured maple syrup on his pancakes, Neff decided to share some historic news with him — he had decided to give the school enough money to construct a building devoted to journalism.

“Williams was so stunned, legend has it, that he continued to pour his maple syrup until it generously overflowed his plate and spilled onto the table,” shared Picht.

To commemorate the foundation’s gift, Picht presented a jar of “RJI maple syrup,” to Reynolds Foundation President Steve Anderson. RJI staff also passed out pure maple candy to guests. The Foundation and the late Donald W. Reynolds have definitely been overflowing with generosity to the university and RJI over the years.

To the Foundation… we cannot thank you enough.

From a former newspaper editor…

As the new Senior Information Specialist at RJI, I’ve only been here a short time. Randy Picht asked me this morning about my first impressions of RJI.

I came to RJI after working as the editor, reporter, photographer and paginator (I also called myself “a one woman newsroom”) for a small weekly newspaper in Osceola, Iowa and before that I worked for a couple of other newspapers. I am familiar with the struggles and challenges newspapers are facing these days. I also know how valued news organizations are to their communities. After my interview at RJI, I knew I wanted to be part of this organization and help spread the word about the work being done to help newspapers like the ones I had worked for.

So to answer your question Randy, “It’s exciting to see the innovation, collaboration and research. I am honored to be part of the RJI family and be part of all the exciting things being done to make the journalism field stronger. It was especially exciting to be part of such a historic day in MU’s history.”

Journalism is a field I’ve been passionate about for quite a while and I’m excited to see what’s in store for the future. From a former newspaper editor, we appreciate what RJI is doing and will continue to do for the journalism industry and my former colleagues, thanks to the generous donations.

Jennifer Nelson-Pallikkathayil  
Senior Information Specialist


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