The long, rich tradition that defines the Manship School of Mass Communication interweaves two remarkable stories. One is the story of the oldest building on campus. The other tells of an academic program founded more than a century ago and, like its building, still evolving.
Louisiana State University, established in the mid-nineteenth century, moved to its “new” campus on the grounds of the federal garrison in downtown Baton Rouge (on what are now the Louisiana state capitol building and grounds) in 1886. In 1904 the cornerstone was laid for Alumni Hall, a nine-square Palladian-styled building with a center rotunda, designed by New Orleans’ architects Favrot & Livaudais.
It was dedicated to David French Boyd, founder and first president of the post-Civil War LSU, and named Alumni Hall because university alumni had underwritten the $20,000 cost of construction. Dedicated on January 2, 1910, it had university administration offices on the first floor, and a chapel and alumni meeting center on the second floor.
The School of Mass Communication began modestly in 1912-13 with one journalism class – English 5/6 – buried in the English Department. By February 1915, according to a contemporary Reveille article, English professor Hugh Mercer Blain was teaching newspaper writing classes. At the end of that year, the Department of Journalism was officially recognized and by 1918 had grown to four faculty members who offered 12 courses. In 1927, it became one of the very first accredited journalism programs in the country and, four years later, one of the first to be elevated from department status to that of a professional School of Journalism, which remained located within the College of Arts & Sciences. The school began offering a master’s degree in 1933.
When the campus was relocated from downtown to its current location on the old Gartness Plantation, the Journalism School was housed in Allen Hall. In 1937, it moved again – this time to Thomas Boyd Hall – in order to offer a more commodious environment for the “news rooms, laboratories, classrooms, and equipment – desks, typewriters, type cases, make up store, and other essential accessories.”
Alumni Hall went through its own odyssey. After the campus was moved, the building served as offices for the Dean of Women and her staff near LSU’s coeds who continued to live downtown. When the distaff students’ residences were completed on the main campus, Alumni Hall became office space for the Extension Service, then for the state tax collector, and finally as a cultural school opened to the community’s children. It was vacant for a year, used as a venue for special occasions, until the dramatic decision was made to dismantle the old building and move it to the new campus.
So, in 1934, Alumni Hall was carefully deconstructed and transported, brick by brick, by the Civil Works Administration, to the site of what had been the university filling station. It was rebuilt “as nearly identical to the old building as is consistent with the style of architecture on the new campus,” including much of the original brick and lumber, said contemporary press releases. Architectural elements such as the 1904 cornerstone, the “Beaux Arts style lunette surmounted entrance, massive Tuscan pedimented portico and Doric columns” – each composed of three stone blocks – were re-incorporated in the new design, created without charge by the New Orleans architectural firm of Weiss, Dreyfous and Seiferth. After dedication, the newly configured Alumni Hall housed the university’s Alumni Federation, Athletic Department, Treasury Department, and the Commandant of Cadets.
Finally, in 1948, the venerable Alumni Hall and the flourishing school were brought together when the university deemed the journalism program worthy of its own building. Not until 1960, however, did the building undergo a partial renovation to make it more suitable for its residents. The sixteen-foot-thick security walls that previously enclosed the building’s vaults were removed and replaced with classrooms; new interior lighting and a glassed front entrance were installed; the floors were covered with vinyl tile, the walls and woodwork repainted, and new doors hung. The Journalism Building, as Alumni Hall was then renamed, was not flashy, but more suitable to a program that by then had added both editorial and publishing-management, according to an article in the LSU Alumni News at the time.
As a sign of its maturity, the J-School created a Hall of Fame in the 1970s. Now a tradition, the annual Hall of Fame awards dinner honors outstanding alumni and others associated with the school who have made significant contributions to media. Among those elected to the Hall of Fame are alumnus Wes Gallagher, an outstanding World War II correspondent and later head of the Associated Press; Sig Mickelson, a professor at the school in the late 1930s and the first president of CBS News; Ray Strother, a graduate who pioneered campaign consulting; and Thomas Ryder, another graduate who is currently Chairman and CEO of Reader’s Digest.
By 1984, the J-School’s curriculum had been accredited not only in print journalism and advertising, but also in broadcast. In recognition of its past success, the Manship Family, owners of local media, made a major financial contribution to the school. In appreciation for their beneficence, the school was renamed the Manship School of Journalism in 1985. Seven years later, after the curriculum had grown to offer sequences in advertising/public relations, broadcast, and journalism, the name was again changed – to the Manship School of Mass Communication.
In 1994, the school’s longtime argument for status as a college-level unit was finally accepted. It was separated from the College of Arts and Sciences, becoming an independent unit and headed, for the first time, by a dean rather than a director. The dormant Mass Communication Alumni Association was revitalized and a new Board of Visitors created to act as a formal advisory council to the dean, its membership drawn from professionals from around the nation.
Dynamic changes within the school continued including a complete overhaul of the curriculum and the addition of new undergraduate areas – independent public relations and advertising tracks as well as a track in political communications. The Office of Research & Public Service was created in 1995, putting the talents and resources of the faculty to benefit the non-academic community.
The school achieved full academic recognition in 1998 when the LSU Board of Supervisors and the Board of Regents approved the establishment of a doctoral program, the only Ph.D. in the United States focusing on media and public affairs. This concentration was the impetus for the subsequent creation of the Reilly Center for Media & Public Affairs in 2000, which absorbed the Office of Research & Public Service.
The center is named for Kevin P. Reilly, Sr., who built a local outdoor advertising company into one of the largest in the nation and also served as a force for good government through state elected and appointed offices. The center’s mission, reflecting both Reilly’s ethic and the school’s strengths, is to educate, interpret and promote the interrelationship between twenty-first century media and the broad realm of public affairs. To this end, the center offers training opportunities, public symposia (such as the annual Breaux Symposium), and lectures, supports public policy and research fellows, and creates high-profile initiatives.
One of these initiatives is the Manship School Research Facility. Research capabilities include the Public Policy Research, which measures and analyzes public opinion on significant public affairs topics; and the Media Effects Lab, which conducts media experiments. Another initiative is the Forum on Media Diversity, a national resource for information about diversity in higher education, professional journalism and mass communication. The Reilly Center produces a media and politics book series in partnership with LSU Press, one of the premier academic publishers in the country.
In 2007, the school began overseeing LSU Student Media, which includes the daily newspaper, television and radio stations, and the university student magazine.
To keep pace with the stature of its academic program as well as changes in media technology, the school’s facilities were extensively renovated. A complete makeover of Hodges Hall, next door to the Journalism Building, created a state-of-the-art television studio, bright classrooms and updated office spaces. The Journalism Building itself was given new life through a major renovation and addition under the supervision of Jerry M. Campbell and Associates. The two-year project required administration, staff, and classrooms to move elsewhere but would, according to the dean, end the distinction of having the only three-story building on campus that leaked on the first floor.
The renovation of the Journalism Building was completed in 2004, returning the Manship School of Mass Communication to a structure that fused original architectural elements with twenty-first century, state-of-the-art media technology. Original hardwood floors and crown moldings were uncovered and restored; carved wooden doors similar to originals were installed, and a rotunda was reconstructed, its first reappearance since the building was moved in 1934.
The dome defines the new Holliday Forum, a flexible space used as a daily gathering place as well as a venue for special programs. On the walls of the Forum are two commissioned artworks, each interpreting the fragile nature of free expression. On the south wall are twelve paintings by Gia Bugadze, a leading artist in the Republic of Georgia, a nation newly independent from the Soviet Union. On the north wall is a wall-hung, three-dimensional sculpture in painted aluminum by nationally recognized African-American artist John Scott, a resident of New Orleans and a recipient of a MacArthur “genius” award.
Traditions continue to build within the walls of the old school. Academically, each new doctoral student marches with the faculty on graduation day, not with the students, in recognition of his or her accomplishment. Reflecting a growing interaction with the community at-large, the school hosts the annual 1913 Dinner, to thank benefactors and present a provocative speaker in the field of mass communication. As a contribution to the advancement of good government, the school sponsors and conducts an annual statewide public opinion survey and makes it widely available to policy makers and the public.
The Manship School of Mass Communication is a place of growth and change, continuing to push its potential as it has since the first journalism class was offered so long ago.
One of the oldest schools of mass communication in the nation, the Manship School at LSU celebrated 100 years of journalism education in 2013. The School hosted a kick-off event on March 21 and a series of events on its centennial weekend, Oct. 23-26, 2013. The theme of the centennial celebration was “Connecting the past to influence the future.”
The October events featured a Hall of Fame gala, retrospective panels, professional development, a birthday party celebration and concluded with a tailgate before the LSU-Furman football game.
“In my second year as dean of the Manship School, I consider it an honor to preside during our centennial,” Manship School Dean Jerry Ceppos said. “We’re in a select group of top universities that have been teaching journalism and mass communication for 100 years. We’re even more select because we’re the only school that teaches and researches at the intersection of media and public affairs at all three levels—undergraduate, master’s and doctoral.” The School launched a digital timeline featuring alumni profiles, historical benchmarks, videos, photos and other Manship School memories. Alumni, friends and students of the added stories, photos and videos to the timeline, commemorating events and experiences while at the Manship School. Memories were tagged on Twitter with #Manship100.
In a letter to alumni and friends, Dean Ceppos said, “As a result of those tumultuous 100 years, I’m more convinced that we must teach students that nothing is forever. We hope that we’re teaching students to use their analytical schools to think ahead to the future of communication. Thank you to the many who have contributed so richly to the history of this School through giving, teaching, learning and visiting. We’re looking forward to meeting many more friends of the school during this centennial year.”