Newsman Dan Rather and his wife, Jean, have given Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Tex. the largest single monetary gift in the university's history.
Their $2 million contribution, given through the university's Share The Vision capital campaign, has been designated for scholarships and discretionary funding for programs in areas for which Rather is well known.
Rather, a long-time supporter of the university, received a bachelor's degree in journalism from then-Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1953.
"So many people, known and unknown, helped me to get through Sam Houston State when I was there, desperately trying to make it, that I've always wanted to give back-some how, some way, to the best of my ability," said Rather.
"When President Gaertner told us last year that the university was going to begin its biggest campaign ever," Rather continued, "he explained how the increasing need for assistance outside the state legislature was essential to aid those students least able to fully help themselves financially," Rather continued. "He also explained how resources from 'outside' help could benefit the university in its overall, general drive for excellence," said Rather.
After talking with President Gaertner, Rather said that he and his wife thought a lot about what they could do for Sam Houston State. The Rathers called a family council to discuss their wishes, and all agreed that the time to make a financial contribution to the university was now.
"We've long had an acute sense of how lucky and blessed we have been as a family," said Rather. "And for so long, we had had this longing to give something back to Sam Houston.
"In the great scheme of things, anything we could contribute wouldn't be a whole lot," he said. "But what we could do, we wanted to do, and we wanted to do it at a time when the need seemed to be the greatest. We eventually concluded that the time was now. We wish we could do more."
University officials noted the significance of the Rather gift.
"The gift from Dan Rather and his family is a milestone in Sam Houston State's history," said SHSU President James Gaertner. "It is the largest single cash donation ever made to this grand old university," he continued. "The gift will be used to endow undergraduate scholarships and to support the communications program. It is safe to say that many lives will be changed for the better because of this example of great generosity. We sincerely appreciate Mr. Rather's thoughtfulness, and his obvious affection for Sam Houston State, that resulted in this wonderful donation."
Throughout the years, Rather's support of Sam Houston State University has encompassed a wide variety of areas. He has established new scholarships and supported existing programs on campus including journalism, the library, alumni relations, the Honors Program, and a number of enrichment programs; filmed promotional material for the university; and met with students and classes.
In 1998, he established what Sam Houston State students have called one of the best broadcasting internships in the United States, inviting three students per year to spend a semester working at CBS News in New York City. Sam Houston State University formally kicked off its "Share the Vision" capital campaign, the first such undertaking in its 127-year history, earlier this year. Over the next five years the school that was founded in 1879 as the first teacher-training institution in the Southwest will ask its alumni and friends to raise a total of $50 million.
Campaign objectives include $10 million for student scholarship and program endowment, $18 million for faculty and staff endowment, $14 million for academic program endowment, $5.25 million for construction projects, and $2.75 million for program and project enhancement funding.