Syracuse University Magazine

Newhouse at 50

Newhouse at 50

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When publishing magnate Samuel I. Newhouse unveiled a building bearing his name a half-century ago, it was the beginning of a modern communications school that continues his tradition of excellence today

By Wendy S. Loughlin

On the morning of August 5, 1964, rain clouds hung over Syracuse as hundreds of people gathered behind a chain-link fence at the edge of a runway at Hancock Airport. They held signs. They looked curiously at members of the Secret Service and the White House press corps, assembled nearby. They listened to transistor radios bringing news of unrest in the Gulf of Tonkin, off the coast of Vietnam. They peered skyward for some sign of the plane.

As if on cue, the clouds parted at 10 a.m. and, minutes later, the blue-and-white jet came into view. The crowd watched it land and taxi, saw the door swing open, caught a glimpse of a green silk dress and then, emerging into the light, came the president and first lady.

Lyndon B. Johnson and his wife, Lady Bird, had come to town to dedicate the newly constructed Newhouse 1. It was the first of three planned buildings at Syracuse University that would be known as the S.I. Newhouse Communications Center in honor of the publishing magnate whose $15 million gift was the largest in the school’s history. Standing on the tarmac, Samuel I. Newhouse waited with his wife, Mitzi, to greet the Johnsons.

Newhouse had been born to poor immigrant parents on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and now he stood next to the president of the United States. He understood, perhaps more than anyone else present, the significance of the scene. The evening before, at a dinner in his honor, Newhouse had noted: “I cannot be unaware of a dramatic contrast that concerns my name. The first time it appeared anywhere was on a birth certificate written in a New York City tenement, where I was born. I’m proud of that. Tomorrow I will see my name inscribed on the wall of what is perhaps the most modern school of communication in the world. I am proud of that, too.”

A Moment in History
Newhouse and Johnson rode together in a car from the airport to campus, wending their way along a route crowded with an estimated 10,000 people hoping to catch a glimpse of the president. Johnson was highly popular with an American public still reeling from the assassination of John F. Kennedy eight months earlier. He was also gearing up for a November election, and may have been heartened to see such an enthusiastic turnout in the majority Republican town.

Another crowd waited for him on campus, covering the sloping hill from University Place back to the Hall of Languages and Maxwell Hall. Standing on the plaza in front of Newhouse 1, the president began his remarks by noting, “On this occasion, it is fitting, I think, that we are meeting here to dedicate this new center to better understanding among all men. For that is my purpose in speaking to you.” Johnson then proceeded to deliver a historic address that would come to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin Speech, outlining the need for action in Vietnam and in essence kicking off a war that would last for more than a decade.

LBJ at ribbon cutting Newhouse 1Opening the Door
Johnson’s remarks were met with applause and, at the end, a standing ovation. He then turned his attention to the four orange ribbons that had been strung across the opening of Newhouse 1. Newhouse’s wife was the first to clip a ribbon with a pair of gold scissors; his daughter-in-law, Susan, clipped the second. The president and first lady clipped the final two, officially opening the Newhouse Communications Center at Syracuse University.

Chancellor William P. Tolley presented both Johnson and Newhouse with golden keys, and Newhouse used his to unlock Newhouse 1. The 76,000-square-foot, flat-roofed building, designed in a cruciform, featured an expansive atrium lit by skylights in the 32-foot-high ceiling. On the wall was a bronze Jacques Lipchitz sculpture, Birth of the Muses, and a quote from Newhouse: “A free press must be fortified with greater knowledge of the world and skill in the arts of expression.” The building was devoted primarily to print media.

Newhouse 1 had been six years in the making. After a chance meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, where Newhouse accidentally sat in Tolley’s chair at a dinner, the two had become friends, and around 1958 began discussing a proposed new building for the School of Journalism. At its founding in 1934, the school was located in Yates Castle; but the building was demolished in 1953 to make room for additions to the medical school after it changed hands from Syracuse University to the University of the State of New York. The School of Journalism needed a new, permanent home.

Newhouse’s initial gift of $1 million for the construction of a new building and $700,000 for operations was announced in 1960. But by 1962, the gift, along with the vision, had been expanded. That summer, Newhouse pledged $15 million for what would become a three-building complex. For the first building, he chose up-and-coming architect I.M. Pei, whose design would receive the American Institute of Architects’ National Honor Award in 1965.

That the building was located in Syracuse was not happenstance, and not solely the result of the relationship between Newhouse and Tolley. Newhouse’s connection to Syracuse stretched back to 1939, when he purchased two Central New York newspapers and merged them to create the Syracuse Herald-Journal. In 1942, he purchased the city’s other daily, the Syracuse Post-Standard. He sent both of his sons, S.I. Jr. ’49 and Donald ’51, to Syracuse University, received an honorary degree from the University in 1955, and was named to the Board of Trustees in 1959. “The City of Syracuse has a very special place in my heart,” he once said. And in a letter to Johnson a week after the dedication, Newhouse called August 5, 1964, “my happiest of days.”

A Legacy Continues
In 1971, when the School of Journalism merged with the Department of Television and Radio, the school was renamed the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and became the most comprehensive, stand-alone school of its type in the nation. Three years later, Newhouse saw the opening of the second building in the complex, Newhouse 2, which was dedicated with a keynote address by William S. Paley, chairman of the board of CBS.

Newhouse died in 1979, and control of his publishing empire—which by then included 31 newspapers, seven magazines, six television stations, five radio stations, and 20 cable television systems—passed to his sons. Both men and their families were present in 2007 when the third building, Newhouse 3, was dedicated by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts.

When Newhouse died, Dean Henry Schulte noted: “Mr. Newhouse maintained a keen, penetrating interest in the school, but never by word or gesture interfered in the management or growth of the school. It was as if he said, ‘I’ll give you the tools. Seek excellence.’”



Heralding a New Era

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With an assist from Oprah Winfrey, the Newhouse School opens its new studio and innovation center

The S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications marked its 50th anniversary this fall with the dedication of the Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center, ushering in a new era with a celebration of the world-class facilities, the people who helped make the center happen, and the students who will hone their skills there in preparing to be the next generation of communicators. The new center is “symbolic of this marriage of the traditional and the progressive,” Newhouse School Dean Lorraine Branham said. “On the 50th anniversary, we set our sights on securing the Newhouse School’s preeminence for the next generation. These new facilities are a critical new step toward this goal.”

The September 29 ceremonies were highlighted by special guest Oprah Winfrey, who gave remarks and helped cut the ribbon on the new center that features Dick Clark Studios and the Alan Gerry Center for Media Innovation. As thousands gathered outside the school on Waverly Avenue to witness the ribbon cutting, Winfrey charged the students to live up to the high standards that come with such an impressive new facility. “Now what matters, that you have received this extraordinary gift, is that you match the gift with your excellence. Energy for energy, excellence for excellence,” Winfrey said. “Let the new generation of innovation come forth.”

Winfrey was joined by Chancellor Kent Syverud, Dean Branham, Kari Clark, widow of legendary entertainer Dick Clark ’51; Alan Gerry, president of Granite Associates; and Donald New­house ’51, president of Advance Publications. Clark recalled how her late husband loved Syracuse and how he loved show business, never thinking of it as work. “I think his wish to all you students would be to find your chosen profession and enjoy it as much as he did and then make a living at it, too,” Clark said. On behalf of her family, Clark thanked those who worked hard to make Dick Clark Studios a reality. “I just wish Dick could see it,” she said. “He would be truly amazed and honored.”

Gerry, a University Life Trustee, also addressed the students, encouraging them to dream. “This is your time, this is your place,” he said. “Look it over, see what moves you. Make a wish, make a promise to yourself. This is the place where wishes come true. This is the place where promises are fulfilled. This is the afternoon that hopefully will be a memorable point in your life, and I’m just so proud to share it with you.”

Inside Newhouse 2, Dick Clark Studios contain a high-tech entertainment production environment that rivals many Hollywood studios. The Alan Gerry Center for Media Innovation is a creative hub where Newhouse expertise in content development and production will meet the latest media technology and programming trends. The Diane and Bob Miron Digital News Center will be dedicated primarily to news, talk, and magazine-style production, with multimedia capabilities and a file-based digital media environment.

With the changes in communications since its inception half a century ago, the Newhouse School has continued to keep pace, and the new facilities mark another leap in communications. Fifty years ago, “my dad and Chancellor Tolley had a vision,” Donald Newhouse said, and that was expressed in their campaign for a school of communications. Since then, Newhouse said his family has taken great pride in seeing the school meet the challenges of the ever-changing field of communications, first with the establishment of Newhouse 2 and then Newhouse 3, and now with the new studio and innovation center. “My family and I envision a great future for the school as it changes and evolves in a field, which is essential to our continuing freedom,” said Newhouse, an SU Honorary Trustee.

Before the ribbon-cutting ceremonies outside, a dedication was held inside Goldstein Auditorium in the Hildegarde and J. Myer Schine Student Center, with Winfrey as featured speaker and Beth Mowins G’90, play-by-play commentator for ESPN, serving as emcee. “To all the students here, you are so lucky,” Winfrey said. “My definition of luck is: Preparation meeting the moment of opportunity.”

Winfrey told her own story of being hired at age 16 to work at a radio station. She was 19 when she got her break on television news while in college, but lacked the skills she needed and had to learn on the job. “You are here in an environment where you can craft your skills, where people care about you, where you can hone and define who it is and what you want to do and how you’re going to use that skill with great passion to go out into the world,” Winfrey said. “The most important thing I feel is being able to operate through the interior of your soul and allow the passion of your heart to lead you to do the good and great work.”

Winfrey came to realize that broadcast news wasn’t for her, but discovered her passion when she did her first talk show and “found her space in the world.”   

“For you all to have the benefit of developing, honing those skills, in such a way that when you step out into the world you already know who you are and what you’ve been called to do, I think it’s the greatest gift,” Winfrey said. “I think the world is in great need of knowing the truth and being able to discern what is the truth and I think that you all are the ones to prepare and to hear it.”

Chancellor Syverud, who also spoke at Goldstein, recognized the students and the faculty who provide them a rigorous education in communications. “These great teachers, these great students deserve top-flight facilities in which to work and today, especially today, they have them, thanks to the people here,” he said.

Dean Branham noted how the communications industry is one that was “unimaginable” from when Newhouse 1 opened in 1964. “Our students will be ready,” she said. “They understand to excel in the communications industry of today and tomorrow they must be nimble, they must be entrepreneurial, they must understand the technology, and they must expect the unexpected. And they must also remain true to the fundamentals of good communications that have been taught at the Syracuse University Newhouse School since the School of Journalism was founded here 80 years ago.” —Kathleen Haley



The "New" Newhouse 2: Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center

Following an $18 million renovation of Newhouse 2, the Newhouse School unveiled the Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center, a cutting-edge media facility that gives students the best possible preparation for careers in the communications industry.

One of the most visually striking features of the renovated building is the two-story entry lobby, located at the corner of University and Waverly avenues, which includes a double-height, dramatic glass curtain wall allowing for a sweeping view from the outside. This replaces the “fortress” construction of the original Newhouse 2, which was built in 1974. The renovation doubles studio teaching space and will benefit all Newhouse majors.

Among the planned new courses to be taught in the facility are 3-D Production Workshop, Sports Directing Seminar, Producing the Fashion Video, and Human-Computer Interaction. Other new areas feature space for commercial photography for advertising, green-screen photography for virtual reality and multimedia, and news conferences and satellite tours for public relations.

Inside the new complex, major highlights include:

Dick Clark Studios
Named for legendary entertainer and Syracuse alumnus Dick Clark ’51, the studios are the “show-stopper” for prospective students: a high-tech entertainment production environment that rivals many Hollywood studios. Features include:

»    Full soundstage suitable for live or digitally recorded productions

»    Full digital workflow integrating studio and post-production facilities

»    Virtual studio accommodating green-screen production, still photography, digital cinema film-style production, and other media applications

»    High-definition production capability throughout the studios and control rooms, with the ability to shoot film-style 3-D production.



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Alan Gerry Center for Media Innovation
The Alan Gerry Center for Media Innovation is the creative hub where Newhouse expertise in content development and production meets the latest media technology and programming trends. The center is named for Cablevision Industries founder and University Life Trustee Alan Gerry.

While the studios are focused primarily on production of “traditional” programming formatted for TV viewing, the Gerry Center facilitates the development of content for next-generation “screens” and distribution platforms—YouTube, iPads and Androids, Apple TV—and for entirely new devices—Google Glass, fiber-optic networks, mobile applications, and even “smart appliances.”

Emphasis will be on collaborations with industry partners to create products and programs that have value in the marketplace.



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Diane and Bob Miron Digital News Center
The Digital News Center, named in honor of Syracuse Trustee Bob Miron ’59 and his wife, Diane, is dedicated primarily to news, talk, and magazine-style production, with multimedia capabilities and a file-based digital media environment. It houses a contemporary news set built for a 16:9 viewing world, the standard format for HD and digital television and computer monitors, plus a green screen, with state-of-the-art lighting systems and cameras. An additional set is available for cable-style host/interview or talk-show formats, and a control room with space for observers rounds out the teaching environment. Paperless workflow in this new space follows that of a professional network operation.

The center will also serve the greater University community as a go-to studio for external productions. A fully produced, 30-minute, broadcast-quality show can be created live from this facility, including real-time segments originating from other studios or remotes and packages that are played back from the video server. —Wendy S. Loughlin



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Members of the University community gathered to watch the celebration, which included a visit by Oprah Winfrey.



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Among those who spoke at the Newhouse Studio and Innovation Center celebration were Donald Newhouse '51 (left), a University Honorary Trustee and president of Advance Publications; Kari Clark, widow of legendary entertainer Dick Clark '51; and Alan Gerry, president of Granite Associates and a University Life Trustee.



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A nighttime view of Dick Clark Studios from Waverly Avenue, as well as interior views (below).



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Newhouse students now have the opportunity to do production work in state-of-the-art facilities.

Historical photos courtesy of SU Archives

Celebration and facility photos by Steve Sartori



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