Fifty-three years after Dan Rather received his Bearkat diploma, the former CBS anchorman showed his appreciation by contributing the largest single amount of money this university has ever seen — $2 million.
According to President James Gaertner, this donation is a milestone in Sam Houston State University’s history. “It is the largest single cash donation ever made to this grand old university,” he said.
Rather and his wife, Jean, made the contribution through the school’s Share the Vision capital campaign, which was created last year to upgrade academic standards and enhance the campus of SHSU.
“When President Gaertner told us last year that the university was going to begin its biggest campaign ever, he explained how the increasing need for assistance outside the state legislature was essential to aid those students least able to fully help themselves financially,” said Rather. “He also explained how resources from ‘outside’ help could benefit the university in its overall general drive for excellence.”
Rather said that his wife and him thought a lot about what they can do for Sam Houston State University over the years. After talking with President Gaertner and calling a family council to discuss their wishes, the Rather’s decided that it was the right time to make a financial contribution.
“So many people, known and unknown, helped me to get through Sam Houston State when I was there, desperately trying to make it, that I’ve always wanted to give back-some how, some way, to the best of my ability,” said Rather.
Gaertner said that the donation is expected to fund undergraduate scholarships and discretionary programs Rather himself was once involved in, such as the Communications program.
“It is safe to say that many lives will be changed for the better because of this example of great generosity,” he said. “We sincerely appreciate Mr. Rather’s thoughtfulness, and his obvious affection for Sam Houston Sate, that resulted in this wonderful donation.”
Rather’s alumni services extend further than just large monetary contributions. Over the years he has set several standards for this university, including establishing new scholarships and even supporting existing programs. The journalism program (now part of the Mass Communications program), the library, alumni relations, the Honors Program and a number of other enrichment programs have benefited from his generosity.
In 1994, the University honored Rather for his accomplishments by naming the journalism and communications building after him. A plaque in his honor posted in the entrance of the building reveres Rather for, “exhibiting, over the course of his lifetime, the finest qualities of intellect and will.” Next to the plaque is an award given to him by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities in 1993 for being a “Distinguished Alumnus.”
In 1998, he established an internship program for broadcasting students that involves spending a semester in New York City working at CBS News. Sam Houston State University students have called this, “one of the best broadcasting internships in the United States.”
Rather also contributed greatly to the university while he was still attending. Before graduating in 1953 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he was involved in several organizations on campus. He was editor for The Houstonian for a year before he graduated and even worked for the local radio station KSAM.
After graduating from SHSU, Rather went on to become an anchor for “The CBS Evening News” and hosted prime-time news programs such as “48 Hours” and “60 Minutes.” He has covered the assassination of President Kennedy as well as wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq and went on to become one of the most prominent journalists for five decades.
Dan Rather’s $2 million contribution to the school is certainly the largest donation the school has ever seen, and President Gaertner along with the rest of the school is looking forward to thanking Dan Rather for such a generous gift.
In a recent address to the campus, Gaertner said, “We’re hoping to get him back on campus with his family and show him the kind of appreciation he deserves for that donation.”