Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013
The Virginia Commonwealth University Board of Visitors has approved a new name for the School of Mass Communications in honor of alumnus and retired television executive Richard T. “Dick” Robertson.
Pending approval by the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia, the school will be called the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture. The new name recognizes Robertson’s significant volunteer service and ongoing philanthropic support of the university. The renaming also reflects changes in the communications profession.
“Dick’s support and love of VCU is well known, and we are proud to have the school from which he graduated bear his good name,” said VCU President Michael Rao, Ph.D. “A named school, particularly one named for one of our most successful alumni – a legend in the television industry – will help attract the support of many current and future alumni. Dick’s legacy will inspire future generations of students to follow in his footsteps."
As the transfer of information is becoming less aimed at a mass audience and more personalized, drawing on many new avenues including social and digital media, the term "mass communications" is not a fitting description of the fields of advertising, journalism and public relations -- the three pillars of the school's curriculum. The school’s current mission statement, degree programs, curriculum and assessment plans will not be affected.
The school’s faculty and alumni advisory board both endorse the name change.
“Named schools are a characteristic of national research universities,” Robertson said. “I am deeply honored to have the school named for me and will continue to work with the faculty, VCU Administration and the school’s advisory board to help the Robertson School take its place among the elite programs in the country.”
Robertson currently serves as the chair of the school’s advisory board and has been active in the program for many years.
Robertson, a 1967 graduate of the School of Mass Communications, was chairman of VCU’s Partners for Progress campaign, which raised $167.8 million during a seven-year period (1992-1999). He kicked off the public phase of the campaign by announcing a $1 million gift to the university and made a separate gift to name the Richard T. Robertson Alumni House.
In 2003, Robertson was appointed to the VCU Board of Visitors and in 2005 served as the university’s May commencement speaker. He has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, VCU’s highest form of recognition, and the Edward A. Wayne Medal, established in 1971 to honor individuals who have made outstanding contributions or provided exemplary service to VCU. In 1997, he was inducted into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame and in 1999 was named the Alumni Star for the College of Humanities and Sciences.
Currently, he is a Life member of VCU Alumni and serves on VCU’s Institute for Contemporary Art advisory board and the VCU Brandcenter's board of directors. He serves on the board of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation and in 2003 was inducted into the Broadcasting & Cable Hall of Fame.
Robertson, considered one of the architects of the syndicated barter television business with a 40-year career that established him as one of the most powerful and innovative executives in the industry, spent 17 years as president of Warner Bros. Domestic Television Distribution. Robertson has been involved in the sales and launches of hundreds of television series and specials. He had a hands-on role in more than 100 series and movie packages, including the critically acclaimed and Emmy Award-winning “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” the phenomenon “Friends” and the genre-founding “The People’s Court.”
Robertson began his career in 1965 as a salesman for Richmond-based WRVA-TV while still earning a bachelor’s degree in advertising from VCU.
About VCU and VCU Medical Center
Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 226 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Sixty-seven of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. MCV Hospitals and the health sciences schools of Virginia Commonwealth University comprise VCU Medical Center, one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers. For more, see www.vcu.edu.