Dale R. Spencer, Legendary Missouri Journalism Communication Law Professor, Honored in Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Columbia, Mo. (Aug. 27, 2008) — The legacy of Professor Dale R. Spencer, who was considered a national expert on communication law and libel, will be recognized in the new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Dale Spencer, BJ '48
Dale Spencer, BJ ’48

Family and friends have established the Dale R. Spencer Free-Press Studies Endowment and named a seminar room in the namesake’s honor to commemorate his untiring advocacy of open government and his unstinting efforts to strengthen journalists’ understanding of the law.

During the centennial of the School and dedication of the Reynolds Journalism Institute celebration, Spencer’s family, colleagues and Missouri Journalism alumni will look at today’s First Amendment challenges and ask, “What Would Dale Do?” The session will begin at 3:45 p.m., Sept. 11, in the Fred W. Smith Forum of the Reynolds Journalism Institute. The dedication of the Dale R. Spencer Seminar Room, 200-B, will be held at 4:45 p.m., immediately following the discussion.

The dedication is one of many activities planned during the celebration, which will feature more than 35 Futures Forum sessions, 27 Technology Summit sessions, 11 exhibits and displays, four musical and theatrical performances and two evening meal events. Alumni, students, citizens, journalists, communicators and academics from all over the world have registered for the three-day event.

“Dale Spencer dedicated his professional life to the Missouri School of Journalism. We are honored his family has chosen to create this important endowment in his name,” said Dean Mills, dean of the School. “His scholarship, teaching and public service activities focused on the advancement of the free and independent press throughout the world, a mission shared by the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute.”

Upon learning of the Institute’s creation, Spencer’s widow, Joy Spencer Johnson, BJ ’48, MBA ’82, of Columbia, Mo., and Ft. Myers, Fla., and daughters Melinda Machones of Duluth, Minn., and Jennifer Ambrose of Burton, Ohio, began to envision this permanent tribute.

“It’s been my dream to find a way to create a legacy for my dad at the J-School,” said Machones. “When we learned about the new building and the Reynolds Journalism Institute, as well as the centennial celebration, it seemed the perfect time to finally get something started. My father’s passion for teaching students to think about the First Amendment and its relevance to current events is how he is best remembered. Our hope is that this endowment will help extend that focus and passion, bringing his perspectives to a new generation of students and into the future.”

Reynolds Journalism Institute
The dedication of the Dale R. Spencer Seminar Room will be held at 4:45 p.m., Sept. 11, in the Reynolds Journalism Institute during the centennial celebration of the Missouri School of Journalism.

Spencer graduated from the Missouri School of Journalism in 1948 and after working briefly in commercial publishing, returned as an assistant professor in 1950. An editor at the Columbia Missourian, he taught courses in newspaper copyediting and layout and spoke nationally on journalism and communications law. Spencer was a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Federal Communications Bar Association, among numerous other organizations. During his tenure as professor, he received a master’s degree in journalism in 1955 and a law degree in 1968, both from the University of Missouri. Spencer died in 1988 while serving as a member of the Missouri Journalism faculty.

“Professor Spencer gave so much of his time and talents to the Journalism School and its students,” said Pam Johnson, BJ ’69, executive director of the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and a former student of Spencer. “As his teaching assistant I saw his dedication to teaching and his devotion to the craft. I join Joy and the family in celebrating his lasting contributions to journalism, the School and now the Reynolds Journalism Institute, whose purposes echo what he stood for and where we all must dedicate our best efforts.”

The Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute is a center that will improve the practice and understanding of journalism. This 50,000 square-foot facility, created with an initial $31 million gift from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, will house state-of-the-art resources to test and demonstrate new technologies, experiment with convergence news production and delivery systems, and conduct real-time and virtual seminars and conferences.

The Dale R. Spencer Free-Press Studies Endowment supports 100 by 100: The Centennial Campaign for the Missouri School of Journalism. The campaign seeks to raise endowments to strengthen Missouri’s position as the world’s premier school of journalism. Outright contributions, estate commitments and planned gifts such as charitable trusts and gift annuities made before Dec. 31, 2008, will be recognized in the campaign total.

About the Missouri School of Journalism and Reynolds Journalism Institute:
Since publishing the student-staffed University Missourian on Sept. 14, 1908, the Missouri School of Journalism has been the international leader in hands-on journalism education, also known as the “Missouri Method.” The first to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the field, the School is also the distinguished home of several national journalism organizations, mid-career professional programs and a thriving research agenda. Its advanced curriculum takes advantage of new technologies and practices, a tradition of innovation that will be intensified with the opening of the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI). This 50,000 square-foot facility, created with an initial $31 million gift from the Las Vegas-based Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, will house state-of-the-art resources to test and demonstrate new technologies, experiment with convergence news production and delivery systems, and conduct real-time and virtual seminars and conferences.

Updated: April 29, 2020

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