Marquette receives $8.3 million gift for journalism project

A Minneapolis couple has donated $8.3 million to the Marquette University’s J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette President Scott Pilarz, S.J., announced today.

Peter and Patricia Frechette of Minneapolis made the gift in honor of Patricia’s parents, Perry and Alicia O’Brien. Perry and Alicia graduated from Marquette in 1936 and 1935, with degrees in journalism and liberal arts. The couple designated the gift toward the launch of the Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism. Patricia’s father, Perry, was a longtime reporter with the Janesville Gazette and WCLO-AM radio in the 1940s and 1950s.

The new fellowship, which will begin in fall 2013, will bring three journalists from all types of media to Marquette for each academic year. During this time, the journalists will research and produce an in-depth public service journalism project.

“This remarkable contribution will allow us to enhance our commitment to innovative academic excellence,” Pilarz said. “As a Catholic and Jesuit university, Marquette has a special responsibility to contribute to solutions that solve the problems most troubling to our world today. This new fellowship in public service journalism will benefit our community and broaden our strategic partnerships.”

Peter Frechette said the couple’s recent visit to Marquette campus helped them solidify their vision for the fellowship.

“We had not been to campus in some time, and we were very impressed with the growth and quality of the learning possibilities,” Frechette said. “This fits perfectly with our goal of honoring Pat’s parents. The delivery models for journalism have changed dramatically over recent years and this is an opportunity to take a little different approach to finding solutions. It is a wonderful opportunity for success.” 

The fellowship, which is open to journalists from local, regional, national and international media outlets, includes a partnership with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, offering fellows access to its journalists, staff, data and other investigative resources. It will integrate students from the Diederich College of Communication into the journalists’ projects as assistants, giving them first-hand experience in the work of journalism.

Lori Bergen, dean of the Diederich College of Communication, described the fellowship as the “teaching hospital model” of journalism, noting it will be “consistent with experiential teaching and learning.”

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