IU alumnus Frank C. Arganbright, whose career as a reporter and public relations professional spanned nearly five decades in his adopted hometown of Lafayette, Indiana, gave the IU School of Journalism a $1 million gift from his estate.
When the journalism school awarded the first 10 Arganbright Scholarships , each valued at $1,000, but then-dean Brad Hamm indicated that further use of Arganbright’s gift will be much more far-reaching and could include providing financial support so students can pursue opportunities outside of the classroom, including those abroad.
“Mr. Arganbright’s gift allows us to think about the best ways in the future to encourage more reporting of public affairs and the creative ways that students might do that in the future,” Hamm said. “He might have imagined a world when he left here in 1949 of typewriters and hot type. He knew at the end of his life that’s not the future of these students, so he gave a gift based on the content rather than the tools … I think that’s wise, because the methods might change in the future.”
The gift was the first single donation of at least $1 million for scholarships from an individual in the history of the journalism school, which became The Media School at Indiana University in 2014. First the School of Journalism and now The Media School have strived to adapt to changes in the profession and responded to new developments in the way media is delivered, preparing students to work in different environments.
Arganbright died in 2008 in Lafayette, Ind., at the age of 88, after a lifelong career in the north central Indiana city. A graduate of Gosport (Ind.) High School, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from IU in 1949 after serving in the U.S. Army under General Patton during World War II. He was awarded the Bronze Star.
Following graduation, he joined the staff of the (Lafayette, Ind.) Journal and Courier, where he covered a variety of beats, including crime, courts, government and education, until the early 1960s. The newspaper promoted him to assistant city editor in 1963 and city editor in 1966. As city editor, he then directed a seven-person staff that covered Lafayette, West Lafayette and the rest of Tippecanoe County.
Arganbright also wrote a long-running music column and weekly magazine feature titled “Listening on Records,” and he was magazine editor in 1971-72.
He left the Journal and Courier in 1972 to become senior editor of the Purdue University Office of Public Information and remained with University News Service until 1985.
His two sisters and a brother preceded him in death and he never married or had children.
“Writing and journalism was his life,” his friend and attorney George L. Hanna said when asked about Arganbright’s decision to donate the bulk of his estate to the School of Journalism.
While Arganbright had been a regular annual supporter of the journalism school, the size of his estate gift came as a surprise, Hamm said.
“Some donors are more public than others and there’s no sense that Mr. Arganbright was intending to make a splash,” Hamm said. “He left this gift of $1 million and said that he just wanted to support public affairs journalism. That’s it … He had that belief in journalism and he had that belief in IU. There’s nothing splashy about it, but it’s effective for a very long time.”
“What I’ve always told people is, you never know who you’re talking to,” added Matt Morris, a former development officer at the IU Foundation, who likely was the last person from the university to meet with Arganbright before he became ill and died.
“It’s like the book The Millionaire Next Door,” Morris added, referring to the 1996 book about people with wealth who don’t live extravagant lifestyles. “I remember I went to visit him and it wasn’t in the exclusive area of Lafayette. He lived in a modest neighborhood. The yard was well kept. Houses built in the 1940s … But this gentleman just gave an important gift to the school that will provide lots of aspiring journalists with opportunities.”
In addition to his support of the IU School of Journalism, Arganbright also established a genealogy center named for him in Lafayette through the Tippecanoe County Historical Association Foundation.
Arganbright’s gift counts as part of the Matching the Promise fund-raising campaign for the IU Bloomington campus.