Alum Gives $1.5 Million to School of Communication

Gift to Help Fund School's Expansion, New Media Labs, Student Television Studio

The University of Houston has received a $1.5 million contribution to the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication (JJVSoC) from alumnus Lance Funston.

The gift from Funston, a 1967 graduate and chairman and chief executive officer of Telamerica Inc., will be added to existing gifts and pledges to fund a media technology computer lab, a student television production studio lab, a new entrance to the school, a new lobby and study area. Funston has challenged the University of Houston to match his support two-to-one to accomplish this ambitious makeover of the school.

"Alumni gifts, such as this from Mr. Funston, are essential as the university moves forward in its quest to be the state's next top-tier research university," said UH President Renu Khator. "This very generous gift will not only help us achieve our goals for the Valenti School, but will serve as an inspiration for other alumni to invest in their alma mater and in the success of our incredible students."

The school's planned expansion is designed help better accommodate the school's growing enrollment. As of spring 2009, the Valenti School has more than 1,500 communication majors each year, making it one of UH's largest academic units.

"We have a well-rounded curriculum designed to prepare students for the workforce," said Beth Olson, director of the JJVSoC. "Still, we need room to grow. This gift will help us do that and better serve our current and future students."

The university renamed the school in honor of UH alumnus Jack J. Valenti, who died in 2007.  Valenti served the university in many capacities, including as president of the University of Houston Student Association, president of the Ex-Students Association that became the University of Houston Alumni Association and as a member of the original UH Board of Regents. 

He was the first person hired as a special assistant to President Lyndon Johnson within hours of President John F. Kennedy's assassination in Dallas, and served as the new president’s speechwriter and adviser.  He later became president and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association, where he served in that capacity for 38 years.

"I am honored to be a partner with the University of Houston in a way that improves the teaching and learning environments for the students, while at the same honoring the remarkable legacy of my good friend, Jack Valenti," Funston said.

As part of UH's College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS), JJVSoC offers undergraduate and graduate degrees focusing on a wide range of communication studies. Bachelor's concentrations focus on public relations, advertising, journalism, corporate communication, media studies, media production and interpersonal communication. Master's concentrations are in public relations studies, speech communication and mass communication studies. Curriculum is taught by the school's acclaimed faculty, including media veterans and award-winning scholars and researchers.

Among the school's esteemed alumni are CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, former White House press secretary Peter Roussel, former ABC News reporter Tom Jarriel, filmmaker Walter Coblenz, sports journalist and author Mickey Herskowitz, Houston Rockets broadcaster Bill Worrell and Houston KPRC-TV, Channel 2, anchor Dominique Sacshe. To learn more about the school, visit

"The gift from Mr. Funston, combined with the other gifts and pledges received since the renaming of the school, will give us the much-needed resources to train the new generation of professionals who can communicate effectively in an increasingly interconnected and global society," said Joe Pratt, interim dean of CLASS.

About the University of Houston
The University of Houston, Texas' premier metropolitan research and teaching institution, is home to more than 40 research centers and institutes and sponsors more than 300 partnerships with corporate, civic and governmental entities. UH, the most diverse research university in the country, stands at the forefront of education, research and service with more than 36,000 students.