By Brian MacPherson
“Gazette” student writer
You have to concentrate, you have to count carefully, and it can’t help if you’re a dummy.
Richard Cole would be the first to tell you that these qualities apply to a great bridge player, but these also are qualities of a successful dean. Cole has been both in his 26 years at the helm of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
And when Cole leaves his office in the dean’s suite in Carroll Hall at the end of this school year, he’ll leave behind a legacy as the driving force behind the dramatic ascension of the elite journalism school not only in the United States, but in the world.
“Ralph Waldo Emerson once said that an institution is the lengthened shadow of one man,” said Professor Chuck Stone. “This journalism school is the lengthened shadow of Richard Cole.”
Among the measures for the school’s rapid growth since Cole assumed his current office:
The endowment funds of the School of Journalism and Mass Communication Foundation totaled $491,220 in 1979, but the endowment had grown to $18.4 million by the end of 2001 — an increase of 3,645 percent;
The school consisted of 275 majors in 1979 but now boasts of 1,600 majors, premajors and graduate students;
The school offered 15 scholarships in 1978, a number that now has increased to 75;
No named professorships existed in the school in 1979, but private funds have created 11 named professorships in the years since.
“He’s the one who has brought all of those talents and skills together to make it happen, and he never let go,” said Jan Yopp, associate dean for undergraduate studies. “He never let it slide, even when people would say, ‘Don’t you think we’ve gotten where we need to be?’ He’d be, ‘Well, we can always do a little bit more.’”
The University community will show its gratitude for Cole’s years of service with a celebration of his accomplishments at the end of the month.
The School will host a reception and dinner at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center at 6 p.m. on April 29. Tickets are still available for the dinner at a price of $60 each and can be purchased by calling 962-1204.
An open house in Carroll Hall on April 30 will allow faculty and students in each of the School’s five sequences —advertising, electronic communication, news-editorial journalism, public relations and visual communication — to showcase their work.
Much of Cole’s success has come from his ability to juggle the fund-raising needs of each of the sequences under his watch.
“Some years you spend more for one sequence and some years you spend more for another sequence, but you always have to remember that the other sequence then will have to come to the fore later,” he said. “It’s just a matter of trying to be fair to all the different constituencies in the School, all the different faculty members, all the different student groups, the different sequences.”
One of the ways he has generated money from the school has been through the sale of plaques outside each office and classroom.
“There’s a joke that Dean Cole has sold off everything but the toilet seats,” Stone said.
But at no time was his vision and fund-raising ability more important than during times of transition in the leadership of the University.
“He was able to make the case to new leaders how important journalism and mass communication education was, both for the University and for the country,” Yopp said. “He was able to pitch that case and keep us a strong beneficiary of University resources.”
Cole also understands the needs of journalism faculty — he taught news-editorial classes in Howell Hall, the School’s home until 1999, from 1971 to 1979.
And after a one-year sabbatical to catch up on his reading and writing, he’ll return to the classroom once again.
“He was a killer teacher,” Yopp said. “Students still talk about how hard he was but how much they learned in his editing class. He’s a ferocious editor.”
Cole looks forward to teaching news writing, news editing and feature writing, but he also hopes to re-establish his professional seminar, “Mass Communication in Mexico and Cuba.”
The course, which he last taught in the spring of 2002, investigates the systems of mass communication in two very different Latin American nations, and it is highlighted by a weeklong trip to Monterrey, Mexico and Havana, Cuba, during spring break.
The recent decision by the U.S. governmentto tighten restrictions on travel to Cuba, however, could put a damper on those plans.
“Relations between the U.S. and Cuba are stupid — absolutely stupid,” he said.
In the meantime, though, Cole will have a chance to pursue other passions away from Carroll Hall — including bridge. He has managed to find time for these passions even as he’s built the School of Journalism and Mass Communication in his image.
He enjoys hosting parties, for example — particularly parties involving barbecue.
“(Assistant dean for development) Speed Hallman is trying to get the figure on how many pigs have died to contribute to all of the barbecues,” Yopp said. “Whenever we have a group of Russians or Mexicans or parties for visiting Koreans, whatever the group might be, to welcome new faculty, we have a barbecue.”
Fittingly, then, the School of Journalism and Mass Communication will bid farewell to its dean on April 30 with a barbecue on the front lawn of Carroll Hall.
He wouldn’t have it any other way.