Dan Rather building cultivates journalistic integrity

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At the top of the steep hill that many Sam Houston State University students try to avoid on their way to class every day is the Dan Rather Communications Building.

Sean Smith | The Houstonian
Sean Smith | The Houstonian

 

The building was dedicated on Oct. 21, 1994 in honor of alumnus and CBS anchor Dan Rather.

Construction on the facility began June 1983 and cost an estimated $2.6 million to build the 39,536 square foot building. Completion was late December 1984.

The building, formerly known as the Communications Building, was built under the administration of then university President Elliot T. Bowers. The building houses the department of public communications, which includes journalism, photography, radio-television and speech communications.

The first floor is home of 90.5 The Kat KSHU, the campus radio station, and the Robert Eubanks Studio, the main control and productions facility for Cable Channel 7.The second floor features a computer lab and The Houstonian office and the third floor contains classrooms, offices and several editing bays equipped with the latest editing software.

Dan Rather was born in Wharton on Oct. 31, 1931. He received a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Sam Houston Teacher’s College in 1953 and was an SHSU distinguished alumni in 1977.
Rather began his journalism career as a reporter and editor of the Houstonian. In 1950, he became a reporter with the Associated Press. During his lengthy career, Rather was also a reporter for United Press International, KSAM radio in Huntsville, KTRH radio in Houston and the Houston Chronicle. Rather was also news director for Houston CBS affiliate KHOU before joining CBS News.

In 1962, Rather joined CBS News as chief of its Dallas-based Southwest bureau and in March 1980, Rather became managing editor of the CBS Evening News.

Throughout these 40 years with CBS he held various positions, including co-editor of “60 Minutes”, “Dan Rather Reporting” on the CBS Radio Network and as the White House correspondent during the Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon administrations.

In addition to receiving multiple awards such as the Distinguished Achievement in broadcasting award from the University of Southern California Journalism Alumni Association, the National Media award from the American Psychological Foundation and the American Association of State Colleges, he was also elected a Fellow of the Society of Professional Journalists.

Rather was the only journalist included in U.S News and World Reports leadership surveys in 1984 and 1985 of the top 10 most influential decision makers in America. Rather is now the managing editor and anchor of the television news magazine Dan Rather Reports.

In 1998, Rather established a broadcasting internship. Through this opportunity, each summer one student each summer is allowed to work at CBS News in New York City.

CBS has also established a scholarship in Rather’s name. The CBS/Dan Rather Scholarship provides funding every year for an SHSU student majoring in journalism or broadcast journalism. This year’s recipient of both the scholarship and the internship will be announced today at the department’s annual banquet.

Rather continues to support SHSU in appreciation of the basic fundamental tools the university provided him with which aided in his achievements. He has filmed promotional tapes for SHSU and has been a guest lecturer.

Mass Communications professor and department chair Jean Bodon, Ph.D., commented on the growth of the department.

“The mass communications department is growing tremendously fast,” Bodon said. “We are trying to be innovative and teach new things because the world is also changing very fast.
We try to see where the field of mass communication is moving and try to create new opportunities for students”

Bodon has been department chair for three years and stated that having a figure like Dan Rather as inspiration is imperative for SHSU mass communications students.

“Dan Rather is probably one of the most innovative people in broadcast news,” Bodon said. “I think that’s the reason for the growth in multi-platform journalism and why we need to continue to help it grow. However, while we do this, we should also continue to try to find new fields of study for students.”

He commented on the importance of having a role model such as Rather as an example of what SHSU students can take from what they learn in the classroom and if applied well, can lead to that success so many students work toward.

“The fields are becoming more integrated,” Bodon said. “What we try to do is to expand the possibilities of the student. Students should keep following their passions. We go to school because we have dreams. The role of the department chair is to try to create opportunities for students to fulfill their dreams.”