IU inaugurates Media School, dedicates Pyle sculpture

Megan Jula • Oct. 18, 2014
IU President Michael McRobbie
IU President Michael McRobbie applauded the work of faculty and staff who, for the past year, have worked on launching The Media School. (Photo by senior Grayson Harbour, The Media School)

One year after trustees voted their approval, Indiana University inaugurated The Media School at its future home in Franklin Hall and dedicated a sculpture of Pulitzer Prize winning alumnus Ernie Pyle near its front doors.

Part of IU’s Homecoming Weekend festivities, the Friday ceremony was directed by IU President Michael McRobbie in Presidents Hall, the first portion of Franklin Hall to undergo what will total $21 million in renovations.

“It’s a chance to witness history being made,” alumnus Bradford Raths, BAJ ’12, said of The Media School inauguration. “This isn’t going to happen again. It’s a great opportunity for students, and I’m really excited for them.”

Longshot of Presidents Hall at Franklin Hall, The Media School
Presidents Hall in Franklin Hall was renovated last year. The rest of the building will be ready for The Media School in 2016. (Photo by senior Grayson Harbour, The Media School)

The Media School was established July 1, combining the former School of Journalism and departments of telecommunications and communication and culture. The new school is a part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

McRobbie opened the ceremony by thanking the administrators, faculty and staff who worked to craft the new school.  He also explained why the media merger is an important part of IU’s vision.

“There is no question that the media environment has undergone dramatic changes in recent years,” the president said. “Indiana University is committed to the fundamental principle that as the world changes around us, and new avenues of better understanding the world and contributing to its improvement arise, what we teach and the manner in which we teach it must also evolve.

“Today, we gather to celebrate the latest Indiana University mission that seeks to provide our students with the resources and the skills that they need to meet the new challenges of the 21st century, the establishment of the IU Media School. ”

While the school is just three months old, McRobbie spoke about the successful history of journalism, telecommunications and communication and culture at IU.  He lauded the research of communication and culture,  the 34 Pulitzer winners from journalism and the numerous Emmy award winners from telecommunications.

Ernie Pyle sculpture at The Media School
“Ernie Pyle at Work,” sculpture of the World War II correspondent, was dedicated as part of the Friday ceremony. Many passersby and attendees took photos and posed with the sculpture. (Photo by senior Grayson Harbour, The Media School)

One award-winning alumnus received particular attention.

“It is a great pleasure today to celebrate the latest splendid addition to public art at Indiana University, the recent installation outside these very walls of the sculpture, ‘Ernie Pyle at Work,’ a magnificent bronze sculpture that commemorates one of Indiana University’s most illustrious alumni,” McRobbie said before having to stop for resounding applause.

The sculpture of renowned World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle was installed  Oct. 9 near the walkway to Franklin Hall and near the Sample Gates, the west entrance to campus. Harold “Tuck” Langland, professor emeritus of sculpture at IU South Bend, created the sculpture of Pyle at work in the field, sitting atop an ammunition box at a makeshift desk.

Built in 1907, Franklin Hall was IU’s library for decades and will become the school’s home in 2016. IU Provost Lauren Robel related the formation of the new school to the inscription over the entrance of Franklin Hall, “A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit.” The quote from John Milton came amid a time of struggle for freedom of thought and speech, and freedom from prior restraint, Robel explained, principles the media school is also founded upon.

Dean Singell talking to the audience
“Our faculty are responsible for creating a school that will offer the complex knowledge, the experiential learning and the professional skills our students must possess to assume leadership roles in the media professions that are critical for sustaining a free society,” College of Arts and Sciences Dean Larry Singell told the audience. (Photo by senior Grayson Harbour, The Media School)

College of Arts and Sciences Dean Larry Singell acknowledged that forming the Media School was not easy. The IU Board of Trustees approved the formation of the school Oct. 18, 2013, and faculty from the three units have been busy hammering out policy and curriculum. Difficulty has never been an acceptable excuse in history, he noted.

Professor Betsi Grabe also recounted the faculty’s challenges in creating a new school.

“Be sure, in the making of this Media School, there were epic displays of dissent and resistance,” she said. “But here we are. More, not less, content. Through the work we have done together to design the curriculum, to build structures of self-governance and searching for a founding dean, we have fused.

“We belong together to answer an acute call for making and thinking about media with originality,” she said. 

Coming together as a new school, faculty and students must remember to bring the past with them, Singell emphasized.

“Even the newest of new media rests on the ancient foundation of the practice of storytelling,” Singell said.  “Our new Media School must prepare our students to investigative, to create and analyze the sources, impact, meaning and context of stories. We are here today because our actions have taken us to the beginning of a story. “

Cleve Wilhoit at The Media School
Journalism professor emeritus Cleve Wilhoit inspected the sculpture of Ernie Pyle after the ceremony Friday. (Photo by senior Grayson Harbour, The Media School)

Among the crowd:

Reporter Megan Jula collected a few stories from attendees, ranging from a Pyle museum curator to a Hollywood actor to alumni on campus for homecoming. Here’s a sampling:

Evelyn Hobson, 86, drove from Pyle’s hometown of Dana, Indiana, to see the dedication of the Ernie Pyle sculpture with her three grandsons. Hobson worked for two decades at the Ernie Pyle World War II Museum in Dana and was part of a group that saved Pyle’s childhood home from demolition.

“I fell in love with the writing of Ernie Pyle,” Hobson said. “I don’t think anyone surpasses Ernie Pyle in the ability to express, by words, their emotions. I went to New York to get his Purple Heart. Anything that says Ernie Pyle is where I’ll be.”

Andy Ulrich, a graduate student studying film in communication and culture, said for him, the ceremony elucidated the reasons behind creating The Media School.

“I think everyone was dealing with larger issue of making the shift,” Ulrich said of the merger of the three areas of study. “The speeches showed the sort of logic behind creating The Media School. If I was someone who walked into this room and I didn’t know anything about it, I would be sold.”

He added that he already saw the crossing of interests through the number of telecommunication and journalism students in communication and culture classes.

Adam Albright, BA ’86, was delighted that the inauguration fell on homecoming weekend, meaning he could make it back to Bloomington for the ceremony and Saturday’s football game.  Attending IU runs in the family, he explained. His father graduated after serving in World War II, around the same time Ernie Pyle was killed.

“I also came because I’m concerned about journalism and objectivity,” Albright said. “That’s one thing I truly learned at the School of Journalism. Times are changing and media is changing. I’m hoping IU can be at the forefront of teaching students to respond.”

Jonathan Banks at The Media School
Actor Jonathan Banks, who attended IU in 1970 and whose daughter is an IU student, spoke at the ceremony and afterward with fans in the crowd. (Photo by senior Grayson Harbour, The Media School)

Jonathan Banks, a former IU student and actor known for roles in Airplane, Beverly Hills Cop and the television series Breaking Bad, spoke of his personal connection to Franklin Hall.

“This building we’re in, my grandfather laid the stone for,” Banks said in his brief remarks at the ceremony. “Everything in my grandfather’s life has been about education.”

Banks’ grandfather had a farm on Curry Pike in Monroe County, and worked as a stonecutter to supplement his income. Banks’ mother eventually settled in Washington, D.C., where Banks grew up.

Banks’ daughter now is an IU student and a double major, one of which is telecommunications.

For Banks, attending IU’s homecoming weekend provided a chance to see his daughter, to visit his alma mater and to share his thoughts during the ceremony.

“This school, specifically the theater and cinema, has been my life. I owe so much more to you and I need you so much more than you will ever need me. I am honored to be here. I can only wish you well. “