By Jennifer Bowie
Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis tonight announced the largest single cash gift from a living alumnus in the history of the institution.
Ohio University alumnus Steven L. Schoonover and his wife, Barbara, have contributed $7.5 million toward a new home planned for the Scripps College of Communication.
The new building -- to be called The Schoonover Center for Communication in honor of the Schoonovers' gift -- will house the college's five schools and the WOUB Center for Public Media in one facility that combines the former Baker Center and the Radio-Television Building.
"Steve and Barbara have been wonderful friends of Ohio University. We are very proud to have their support for the transformation of these facilities, which will provide the best educational opportunities for our students," McDavis said.
"The Schoonovers share the vision of the Scripps College and Ohio University for excellence in teaching and scholarship," he added. "They understand that an exemplary academic unit must provide the tools and resources that our students and faculty need to excel."
Steve Schoonover, who earned his bachelor's degree in organizational communication from Ohio University in 1967, is the founder and former CEO of CellXion. The company specializes in site development, shelter and tower construction, and radio equipment integration for the wireless telecommunications industry.
The Scripps College -- which also boasts such alumni as Roger Ailes, BFA '62; Dick Brown, BSC '69; Nancy Cartwright; Leon Harris, BSC '83; and Matt Lauer, BSC '97 -- is one of the nation's premiere communication programs. The Schoonover Center for Communication will help the Scripps College, so named in spring 2006 to recognize the Scripps Howard Foundation's generous support over the course of several decades, meet the demands of preparing students for careers in the rapidly changing communication industry.
"Our goal is to give President McDavis and Dean Shepherd all the tools they need to make the Scripps College one of the highest rated in the country," Schoonover said. "The Schoonover Center for Communication will allow the five schools spread all over campus the opportunity to be located together so they can provide a cohesive effort to educate our students in the rapidly changing communication field."
Schoonover believes that this integration is vital as lines between print, broadcast, Web and other electronic media continue to blur.
"I can't emphasize enough the importance of all the schools working together so students will appreciate the dynamics of media convergence and the concept of the different disciplines combining to produce a communication product," he added.
Gregory J. Shepherd, dean of the college, shares that vision.
"Bringing together all of our schools in one location will encourage integrative and interdisciplinary work -- the kind of work that will be required of a college determined to be an international leader in communication research and teaching," Shepherd said.
The building plan for The Schoonover Center for Communication features a town square on the ground level, accessible by main entrances on East Union and College streets. The main floor will house galleries for professional and student work and a 250-seat multipurpose auditorium and performance stage. A coffee shop and newsstand will help maintain the building's historical role as a gathering place. Most of the classrooms and laboratories will be located on the lowest and highest levels of the building, with faculty and staff offices on the second and third floors.
"With this gift, Steve and Barbara are leading our effort to build a facility to match the excellence of our faculty, students, staff and programs in the Scripps College," Shepherd said.
Shepherd said the building plans create a fusion of spaces while preserving history.
"The new facility will preserve the beauty of the old Baker Center and, through both renovation and new construction, will integrate the Radio-Television Building into the site to provide fantastic space for WOUB and all five schools in the college," he said.
The total project cost is estimated at $37 million to $40 million. Most of those costs will be associated with renovation and new construction for the former Baker Center, with some funds set aside for the rehabilitation of the Radio-Television Building and E.W. Scripps Hall. Plans for Scripps Hall include making it the home of the Scripps College's applied research and professional programs, including visiting industry professionals, workshops and the Scripps Survey Research Center.
Ohio University Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur anticipates significant state support for the project. The university has targeted $25.6 million of state capital appropriations for the project, which is slated for completion in spring 2013.
The Schoonovers' leadership gift, together with other commitments, brings the Scripps College within $4 million of its fundraising goal for the facility.
"Most have seen the current students talking about what they have accomplished and making the statement that they are 'The Promise' in the university's marketing campaign over this past year. Our gift is the other side of 'The Promise,'" Schoonover said. "It represents the time when the very students who are educated by and have graduated from this special place give back to the university so that 'The Promise' can continue in future generations unabated because the product of the university's efforts cared enough to continue the legacy that is Ohio University."
Howard R. Lipman, president and CEO of The Ohio University Foundation, thanked the Schoonovers for their leadership.
"The Schoonovers' transformational giving will leave an amazing legacy for communication education here at Ohio University," he said. "Naming gifts like this often serve as the spark that ignites the imaginations of others. It's my hope that many of Ohio University's communication alumni will follow Steve's lead and support this new facility in whatever way they can."
An active university volunteer, Schoonover has served on the Scripps College Dean's Advisory Council and, since 2000, as a trustee of The Ohio University Foundation Board, for which he is secretary. In 2004, the Schoonovers established a professorship in health communication in the School of Communication Studies, and they served as honorary co-chairs of the Scripps College of Communication Celebration event in September 2006.
"Make no mistake about our expectations that Ohio University will do great things with our gift," Schoonover said. "We could have done wonderful works with these funds, but we believe that our commitment -- along with the contributions of many Bobcats and other caring individuals and foundations -- can achieve far more than we could have ever done alone. Knowing it's an effort of many lets us all make happen what we individually could have only dreamed."
The gift was celebrated in conjunction with a gala event, "An Evening with Ohio University," hosted by alumni Margaret M. Walter (BFA '67) and Robert D. Walter (BSME '67), founder and executive director of Cardinal Health, at Walter Lodge in Dublin, Ohio. The event included an unveiling of Classic Lady II, a sculptural work by guest David Hostetler, renowned sculptor and Ohio University alumnus and faculty member; readings by Ohio University professor and award-winning poet Mark Halliday; and guest appearances from top researchers, coaches and other Ohio University leaders.
The Schoonovers, who reside in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla., have four children and seven grandchildren.
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