Five years ago, it was announced that UT’s College of Communication would be getting a new home. Last night, the Forty Acres community finally came together to celebrate and dedicate that building, the Belo Center for New Media.
Onstage in a packed Belo Center auditorium, communication dean Roderick Hart welcomed the crowd using a clever cartoon to tell the story of how the five-story, 120,000 square-feet structure came to be—depicting key players (regents, President Powers, Belo Foundation donors, and more) as cowboys and sheriffs of the Wild West, eliciting much laughter from the audience.
The ceremony honored all involved in the five-year-long project, including the building’s main designers, Lawrence Group Architects, and the donors who made the Belo Center a reality: The Belo Foundation, Robert Decherd and Maureen Decherd, the estate of James Moroney Jr, and the Jim and Lynn Moroney Family Foundation.
The Belo Center, home to interactive classrooms and meeting spaces for more than 4,600 students, is named for Alfred Horatio Belo, who was vital to early Texas journalism. It honors the third generation of Belo Corp. leaders: Joe Dealey, H. Ben Decher, and James Moroney Jr.
“This building will be a fitting tribute to their generation,” Powers said at the ceremony.
The Belo Center complements the existing Jesse H. Jones Communications Complex, constructed in 1974 and located directly across the street, and even shares some of its same architectural features.
“I had hoped the new building would conform to the look of the Jesse H. Jones complex,” Hart said, “but still be distinctive.”
Public relations alumna Berkley Knas took to the podium to recall how a new communications building had been part of her campaign platform for Communications Council president back in 2006—and she whipped out her old campaign flyers to prove it.
“There is no building in the country like this for a communication program,” she said to the audience of administrators, faculty, and students. “And there’s no other communications program like at The University of Texas.”
Knas was referring to the Belo Center’s digital-age features: a state-of-the-art newsroom, agency-grade creative suite, and more. But possibly most important to students, the new building is home to a cafe and an abundance of power outlets.
“Students really wanted that cafe and those power outlets!” Knas laughed.
Robert Decherd, the chairman, president, and CEO of the A.H. Belo Corp., was presented with a poster-sized postcard featuring a burnt-orange Bevo and 550 signatures of thankful communications students. In his speech, Decherd spoke of his hopes that the Belo Center would help legacy and new media converge.
Dean Hart agreed, saying, “A new media building, despite its preoccupations, cannot lose its memory.”
Learn more about Belo Center for New Media’s key features here.