Douglas Freeland, BA’80, never believed in sitting on the sidelines. That is, unless he was at a McDonald’s All-American Game.
Freeland, a Plainfield, Indiana, native, spent much of his career working for McDonald’s USA, running projects spanning from the popular McDonald’s Monopoly promotion to the company’s annual All-American basketball game. He credits part of his storied career to IU, and he established the Douglas L. Freeland Public Relations Scholarship at The Media School to pay it forward, he said.
“I certainly benefited from my time at IU, and really I still benefit to this day,” he said. Freeland graduated from IU with a degree in telecommunications and minors in political science and business. He now sits on the board of the executive dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and stays engaged with IU events, recently moderating a talk with fellow alumnus Robert Chapek, MS’81, CEO of The Walt Disney Company.
“This scholarship is a way to give something back to students and hopefully impact their opportunity to thrive at IU,” he said. “That’s really the whole point of the endowment was to help pave the way for students who may need an assist in the form of a scholarship to continue on and thrive at IU.”
The scholarship Freeland established is awarded to undergraduate students majoring in journalism with a concentration in public relations who have engaged in civil rights volunteering or activism.
He wanted to promote opportunities for students headed for the public relations field, commenting on its growing prominence.
"Having been in leadership positions during my career, one of the things I believe is critical is the notion of generating big ideas and having a vision and bringing creativity and imagination," he said.
Freeland also said it was extremely important to him to include the service component in the scholarship.
“Right now we are at a crossroads in this country, kind of at an inflection point, in terms of a lot of things going on in society,” Freeland said. “I believe it’s important that the recipients of this scholarship are action-oriented relative to diversity, equity and inclusion.”
Freeland has been active in his community as well. He volunteers at a local food pantry and has mentored students in the former Cabrini-Green housing project. He also participated in anti-violence and women's movement marches in Chicago.
“I wanted to make sure whoever receives the scholarship is participating in some form to help make this a better place, make the country and the world a better place, and one of the ways to do that is to be active in civil rights or in volunteering,” Freeland said.
Freeland is now retired but publishes a blog covering politics, sports and current events. The blog, launched in fall 2017, addresses politics and issues including police brutality against people of color and gender inequity, he said.
“Sitting quiet is not an option,” he said.