Helen Gurley Brown Donates $30 M. to Columbia and Stanford for Bicoastal Media-Tech Institute

Helen and David. (Image via Hearst Corp.)

With the help of a $30 M. gift from longtime Cosmopolitan editor Helen Gurley Brown, Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and Stanford University’s School of Engineering have established the David and Helen Gurley Brown Institute for Media Innovation, the two universities and the Hearst Corporation announced today.

The Institute is inspired by David Brown, Ms. Brown’s late husband, a former journalist, publisher, film and theater producer who graduated from both Stanford and Columbia Journalism School.

The collaboration is intended to connect “the best in West Coast technology with East Coast content,” according to a joint press release, giving each school $12 M. to endow a professorship. The remaining $6 M. will go toward the construction of a “highly visible signature space at the eastern end of the J-School’s landmark building, featuring a state-of-the-art high-tech newsroom.” It will also support graduate and post-graduate fellowships, as well as competitive “Magic Grants” to develop most promising ideas conceived of by Brown fellows. It is the largest gift in Columbia Journalism School’s nearly 100-year history.

“David and I have long supported and encouraged bright young people to follow their passions and to create original content,” Ms. Brown, who turns 90 next month, said in the announcement. “Great content needs useable technology. Sharing a language is where the magic happens. It’s time for two great American institutions on the East and West Coasts to build a bridge.”

“New York City, as the major center for the television, music, print media and advertising, is profoundly affected by rapidly evolving digital technology,” said Stanford engineering professor Bernd Girod, who is the Institute’s founding director until Columbia appoints his East Coast counterpart. “The Brown Institute will bring together creative innovators skilled in production and delivery of news and entertainment with the entrepreneurial researchers at Stanford working in multimedia technology.”

In December, Stanford withdrew its bid for Mayor Bloomberg’s Roosevelt Island tech campus. The $100 million grant went to Cornell to a 50-50 partnership between Cornell and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology; Cornell announced $350 M. gift to back its proposal hours after Stanford dropped out. Carnegie Mellon, one of the rejected proposals, is still working on building an entertainment-tech campus in partnership with Steiner Studios in Brooklyn’s Navy Yards.

The Stanford-Columbia Institute will have a board of advisors including Hearst ceo Frank A. Bennack, Jr.; Columbia board chairman and Apple board member Bill Campbell; and Hearst vp Eve Burton.


Helen Gurley Brown Donates $30 M. to Columbia and Stanford for Bicoastal Media-Tech Institute