Timothy Blair, a graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, has given a $1 million gift to his alma mater for the explicit purpose of research and education on LGBT issues.
The Southeast Missourian quoted the fourth-generation journalist:
It became apparent that the passion I have about LGBT rights, and being a gay man myself… I wanted to put my money where my mouth is.
He also spoke about the role that journalists played in breaking the silence surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic:
When you think about what journalists did, when everybody else wasn’t talking about it, journalists were taking pictures of it. They were giving names to those faces, and that’s where I think we began to see … people living among us who had long lived in the shadows.
In a broad view, what I’m really interested in is the nexus between journalism and democracy and how it related to civil rights and human rights for people who have been underserved and underadvantaged. I think that’s a huge story.
Blair began his journalism career at age 15 by working as a copy boy for his hometown’s Joplin Globe, writes Alicia Stice of the Columbia Tribune. He graduated from MU in 1973 and then earned his Master’s from Washington University in St. Louis. He worked in public relations and marketing and founded his own business in 1993. According to LGBT Weekly, he also is a member of the Episcopal Diocese of Southern California Bishop’s Commission on LGBT Ministries.
Dean Mills, Dean of the School of Journalism, said:
LGBT civil rights has been among the most significant social topics of the past several decades. And it’s important that our future journalists are educated to cover those issues with the same tradition of accuracy and fact finding that has been a hallmark of the School of Journalism.
How the funds are to be used is a decision ultimately in the hands of the Dean of Journalism, writes Jack Flemming of the Missourian, but Blair has a few ideas. Possibilities include attracting faculty specializing in LGBT journalism, supporting research and travel for coverage of LGBT issues, creating fellowships/internships/workshops, and developing courses that focus on how media coverage affects issues across the nation and around the world.
He announced his gift at MU’s Student Center to a small crowd. Blair said:
Examining journalism as a force of social change in our democracy is an essential academic pursuit. I’m proud to say I’m making this gift as the first gift of its kind among American universities.
Today, 27 states, including Missouri, allow people to be fired from their jobs, evicted from housing and denied public accommodations and basic services based solely upon sexual orientation or identity. Yet, the views of most Americans toward the LGBT community, and same-sex marriage in particular, have reversed course dramatically.
What changed the hearts and minds of most Americans? My bet is it lies in the role of journalism as an integral part of American democracy. These big questions require big answers, and I believe the MU School of Journalism, as the leader in American journalism education, is uniquely suited to find those answers.
It was heart-to-heart conversations with his nephew, who is also gay, that helped him make the decision to give the university the gift, writes Raffy Ermac of The Advocate, though he had long considered donating.