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For immediate use

June 24, 2002 -- No. 357

Photo note:
To download a photo of Cole, see bottom of release

Cole recognized for longtime service as dean, faculty member with Kerr professorship

School of Journalism and Mass Communication

CHAPEL HILL -- The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is recognizing Dr. Richard Cole for 31 years of service Ė including 23 years as dean of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication Ė with an appointment as the John Thomas Kerr Jr. Distinguished Professor.

The appointment takes effect July 1. John T. Kerr III of Durham contributed $666,000 last year to establish the professorship in the school in honor of his father. His contribution and a $334,000 matching grant from the stateís distinguished professorship fund created the $1 million endowment to fund the professorship.

"Itís richly deserved and long overdue," said Dr. Tom Bowers, senior associate dean of the school. School faculty long encouraged Cole to allow himself to be considered for a professorship.

"Over the years, as he was able to secure more and more endowed professorships for the school, he adamantly refused to be considered," Bowers said. Nine other full professors in the school hold named professorships. Two term professorships also rotate among faculty members.

Dr. Bernadette Gray-Little, executive associate provost, and Provost Robert Shelton visited the school months ago and spoke to full professors, not including Cole, asking for nominations. Fourteen school faculty submitted nominations. After reviewing them, Gray-Little again met with the full professors to ask for a recommendation. "We unanimously recommended that it be (Cole)," Bowers said.

The new post will provide a stipend besides Coleís salary and funds for travel or research support. "I have a serious commitment to journalism education, and I believe that I have something to offer," Cole said after becoming dean in 1979. The school has flourished under his leadership, earning a reputation as perhaps the nationís best journalism and mass communication program.

Kerr sold 65 acres of land to establish the professorship in memory of his father, John T. Kerr Jr., who came to Carolina in 1918.

"I wanted to repay the university for what it had given me," he said. "The School of Journalism and Mass Communication was selected because real democracy depends on well-informed voters who make up their own minds in elections, as opposed to those who vote according to a sheet of paper given them by some political or union boss."

Kerr's gift goes toward the Carolina First campaign, a multi-year effort to position UNC as the nation's leading public university. Carolina set a campaign target of 200 endowed professorships to help attract, retain and support leading teachers, scientists and scholars. The campaign goal and progress toward it will be announced in October.

The Kerr family has a longstanding history with Carolina. Kerrís great-grandfather attended the university, and his grandfather started Durham Foundry & Machine Works in 1888. Kerrís father came to Carolina in 1918 after he attended Davidson College for two years.

Kerr III was desk editor of The Daily Tar Heel in 1943 and managing editor in 1944. He was associate editor of Carolina Magazine in 1943 and a member of the Publications Union Board in 1944. After serving in World War II, he returned to Carolina in 1947 as sports editor of Yackety Yack, the yearbook.

Much of his life has been devoted to public relations and mass communication. "I have a love for writing, editing and photography and, in a pinch, being an artist," Kerr said. Proud of his Scottish ancestry, Kerr established the Kerr Family Association of North America, which has 400 paid members. He also is editor of The Border Line, a quarterly newsletter for association members.

Cole received the Freedom Forum Medial for Distinguished Accomplishments in Journalism and Mass Communication Administration in 1992. Recognizing lifetime achievements, it had been given only three times previously. Cole, then 50, was the youngest person to receive it. He also was the national president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication in 1982-83 and the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1986-87.

An award-winning teacher at UNC, he has been a member of many national and international boards and task forces. He long chaired the Freedom Forumís national scholarship committee and now leads the national steering committee of the Hearst Foundationís journalism awards program. He was vice president of both the national Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications and the worldwide International Association for Mass Communication Research.

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School of Journalism and Mass Communication contact:
Zach Hoskins, (919) 966-3323