As a pioneer in the nascent cable television industry, Char Beales, B.A. ’73, recalled the days when few people knew what CNN and ESPN were and cable television programming was not eligible for mainstream Emmy awards. She compared the evolution of cable to the more recent explosion of internet-based media, where the difference is that low barriers to entry enable almost anyone to declare him or herself a journalist.
In an effort to ensure accountability and accuracy are not left behind in the changing landscape of journalism, Ms. Beales and her husband, Howard Beales, professor and chair of the Department of Strategic Management and Public Policy in the GW School of Business, have pledged $3.2 million to the GW School of Media and Public Affairs to fund an endowed professorship.
The gift, which is a bequest commitment from the Beales’ estate, will create the Char Beales Endowed Professorship of Accountability in Journalism, a position that will advance academic research in this area. The bequest is the largest single gift in the history of the School of Media and Public Affairs (SMPA), which is dedicated to the study of media, journalism and political communication.
“We are deeply grateful to Char and Howard for their commitment to George Washington and their extraordinary generosity in making this splendid gift to the School of Media and Public Affairs,” said President Steven Knapp. “Accuracy and accountability in journalism are essential to the preservation of our democracy, and this new professorship will ensure that those values are studied and taught in the heart of our nation’s capital.”
Ms. Beales was attracted to GW by its strong debate program and met her husband, Dr. Beales, then a student at Georgetown University, at a debate tournament in Boston. She pursued a successful career in the cable industry, including serving as the president and CEO of the Cable and Telecommunications Association for Marketing. She has served as chair of SMPA’s National Council for Media and Public Affairs since 2010, and on the advisory body for the school since 2002.
“Char Beales has been a leader at the School of Media and Public Affairs. It has been an honor and an inspiration to work with her,” said Frank Sesno, director of the school. “The Beales professorship is a tremendous expression of Char’s deep commitment to the future of journalism, GW and SMPA. It is an investment in the country itself, because holding the powerful to account is a pillar of journalism and central to our democracy. The research and teaching that this gift supports will lead the way for generations to come.”
GW has a long history of educating journalists. The university began offering journalism courses in 1938 and founded the National Center for Communication Studies in 1991 with a focus on journalism and political communication. The center was renamed the School of Media and Public Affairs in 1996.
Ms. Beales has been an active volunteer with GW’s Making History campaign, serving as the SMPA campaign chair. She and Dr. Beales were inspired to create an endowed professorship by their belief that endowed faculty positions are key in attracting and retaining top-notch academics and bolstering the university’s overall profile and reputation.
Bequest intentions – through a will, living trust, charitable gift reminder or similar vehicle – are an increasingly popular way to support institutions like GW. More than $100 million has been committed to the university through bequest intentions during the Making History campaign.
By setting a leadership giving example, they hope to encourage others to give as well. “SMPA is on a trajectory to be a top-tier media school, and more support will make that happen more quickly,” said Ms. Beales. “We want this gift to motivate others to join us in supporting the university and SMPA.”
This story was previously published on GWToday.
Read more about the Beales gift and philanthropy news in the fall 2016 issue of Impact magazine.