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GURLEY BROWN’S BIG GIFT: Helen Gurley Brown will donate $30 million to the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford’s School of Engineering to create an Institute for Media Innovation. The joint program will be named after Brown and her late husband, David Brown, who was a movie producer and attended both Columbia’s journalism school and Stanford.
Out of the $30 million, $18 million will go to Columbia and $12 million will be sent to Stanford. Columbia will use that extra $6 million to construct a state-of-the-art newsroom in the existing footprint of the journalism school’s building. Nicholas Lemann, the dean of the Columbia School of Journalism, said it’s the largest donation in the history of the graduate school.
Lemann said the leaders of the institute will “dispense a pool of money to young people working in partnership — some produced and found by us, some produced and found by Stanford engineering — on specific projects that involve marrying technology to journalism and media production.”
Apart from the $6 million construction project, the two universities will use the remaining $24 million to endow a professorship, and to award grants and fellowships.
Columbia will go on a job search for the East Coast director of the institute, while Stanford engineering professor Bernd Girod will serve as the institute’s founding director for the time being.
Stanford’s fellows will be chosen from its engineering Ph.D. students who, Lemann said, “one hopes will become Larry and Sergey someday,” referring to Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Columbia will choose fellows from its graduating journalism school class. Lemann said the institute will name its first two fellows in May. Both schools will also hand out grants, which is what is expected to eat up the biggest portion of Brown’s donation.
Brown, the editor of Cosmopolitan from 1965 to 1996, said, “David and I have long supported and encouraged bright young people to follow their passions and to create original content. Great content needs usable technology. Sharing a language is where the magic happens. It’s time for two great American institutions on the East and West Coasts to build a bridge.”
Though Brown was a legendary editor and her husband was a producer for movies such as “Jaws” and “Driving Miss Daisy,” there was one question that popped up throughout the day in the New York media world: Who knew Helen Gurley Brown had that much money?
Lemann conceded he was “pleasantly surprised by the magnitude of the project.
“They didn’t have any children and, in fact, this is their child,” he said.
David Brown died in February 2010.