Nearly $22 million gift to UNC will fund cutting-edge journalism, medicine and sports

Story by The News & Observer
Originally published Nov. 2, 2018, on newsobserver.com

The Curtis Foundation of Raleigh has given $21.75 million to UNC-Chapel Hill, including $10 million to the UNC School of Media and Journalism, its largest ever gift, the university announced Friday.

The foundation is headed by broadcast executive and UNC 1963 alumnus Don Curtis of Raleigh. Curtis and his wife, Barbara, decided to make the donation to the university to support journalism, medical research and athletics.

Of the total, $8 million will go toward a new building, the Curtis Media Center, that will feature new technology and a flexible space for production, team projects and other uses. It can be used by students in other programs, as well as those in the media and journalism school. Another $2 million will go to a fund to support career and extracurricular activities for students.

Dean Susan King said the facility will be a glass structure so that students passing by can see the work going on inside. Plans have not been finalized but the building is expected to be located near the journalism school.

“It couldn’t be a better time to have such a boost,” King said in an interview, referencing a time of duress in the journalism industry. “This is someone who is saying, ‘Media is alive and well, journalism is important to the civic dialogue,’ and every student on this campus will be able to see that we are a centerpiece of this industry.”

Curtis is chairman and CEO of the Curtis Media Group, which owns dozens of radio stations around the state. He is a former member of the UNC Board of Trustees and chaired the UNC General Alumni Association from 2011 to 2012, according to the university.

Barbara Curtis is a member of the UNC Cardiovascular Board of Advisors and the board of the Medical Foundation of North Carolina. Their daughter, Donna McClatchey, is a 1993 graduate of the UNC School of Media and Journalism.

In an interview, Don Curtis said he viewed the donation as a payback to the university, and to the state.

“The role of the journalism school and media and journalism in Chapel Hill is going to be really important as we have this age of convergence and learn how to use all the tools at our disposal to get stories out, to get information out,” he said.

“I just feel like it’s time to give back,” he added.

In a statement, UNC Chancellor Carol Folt said the Curtis gift would keep the journalism school on the cutting edge.

“With the largest gift in the School of Media and Journalism’s history, the Curtis family is passing on his legacy to the next generation of journalists, creating spaces for innovation and collaboration among our students and faculty,” Folt’s statement said. “Their generosity and commitment to Carolina, from athletics fields to the hospital and classrooms, is remarkable.”

Other gifts from the Curtis Foundation include:

  • $3 million for the UNC School of Medicine and UNC Hospitals for patient care and research.
  • $3 million for UNC athletics.
  • $5.275 million for the university for uses to be determined later.

The donations from the Curtis family are part of the university’s multi-year $4.25 billion fundraising campaign.