Marquette University News Release

Marquette University College of Communication receives $8.3 million gift

February 13, 2013

Gift will fund fellowship in public service journalism

MILWAUKEE – A Minneapolis couple has donated $8.3 million to the Marquette University J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication, Marquette President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J., announced today.

Peter and Patricia Frechette, of Minneapolis, made the gift in honor of Patricia’s parents, Perry and Alicia O’Brien. Perry and Alicia graduated from Marquette in 1936 and 1935, with degrees in journalism and liberal arts. The couple designated the gift toward the launch of “The Perry and Alicia O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism.” Patricia’s father, Perry, was a longtime reporter with the Janesville Gazette and WCLO-AM radio in the 1940s and 1950s.

The new fellowship, which will begin in fall 2013, will bring three journalists from all types of media to Marquette for each academic year. During this time, the journalists will research and produce an in-depth public service journalism project.

“This remarkable contribution will allow us to enhance our commitment to innovative academic excellence,” said President Scott R. Pilarz, S.J. “As a Catholic and Jesuit university, Marquette has a special responsibility to contribute to solutions that solve the problems most troubling to our world today. This new fellowship in public service journalism will benefit our community and broaden our strategic partnerships.”

Peter Frechette said that the couple’s recent visit to campus helped them solidify their vision for the fellowship. “We had not been to campus in some time, and we were very impressed with the growth and quality of the learning possibilities,” he said. “This fits perfectly with our goal of honoring Pat’s parents. The delivery models for journalism have changed dramatically over recent years and this is an opportunity to take a little different approach to finding solutions. It is a wonderful opportunity for success.”

The fellowship, which is open to journalists from local, regional, national and international media outlets, includes a partnership with the Pulitzer Prize-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, offering fellows access to its journalists, staff, data and other investigative resources. It will integrate students from the Diederich College of Communication into the journalists’ projects as assistants, giving them first-hand experience in the work of journalism. Dr. Lori Bergen, dean of the Diederich College of Communication, described the fellowship as the “teaching hospital model” of journalism, noting it will be “consistent with experiential teaching and learning.”

“This fellowship will support and promote public service journalism, which is increasingly rare in today’s challenging news environment,” Bergen said. “Our country deserves news and information from the world’s top journalists that can inform and inspire citizens to imagine solutions to our most critical challenges.”

Bergen noted that over the past two years, Marquette’s Diederich College of Communication has established multiple partnerships to “create new, innovative models for supporting the kinds of journalism that will inform policies, citizens and communities. We hope to inspire other philanthropists, media outlets and universities across the country to establish similar models, which become possible when you bring dedicated partners together.”

The O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism follows the announcement in November 2012 that Marquette was named the recipient of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant between Marquette University and the authors of The New York Times “Fixes” column, called FixesU. This grant, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, combines Marquette University’s Social Innovation Initiative with the journalism prowess of New York Times authors David Bornstein (best-selling author of How to Change the World) and Tina Rosenberg (Pulitzer prize-winning author of The Haunted Land).

In spring of 2011, the Diederich College of Communication helped launch Milwaukee’s Neighborhood News Service, an award-winning online source for objective, professional multimedia reporting on urban issues in 17 Milwaukee communities. The news service is a project of United Neighborhood Centers of Milwaukee, and is supported in part by a grant from the Zilber Family Foundation as well as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

This fall, the Diederich College, in partnership with the Public Policy Forum and the Argosy Foundation, developed a fellowship program for two graduate student fellows each semester to work for the Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

The O’Brien Fellowship in Public Service Journalism is the second-largest gift in the Diederich College of Communication’s history. In May 2005, William and Mary Diederich gave $28 million to establish the college as one of the nation’s top communication schools.


About Andy Brodzeller

Andy Brodzeller

Andy is an associate director of university communication in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Andy at (414) 288-0286 or View all posts by .