Alumni Pledge $5M to Create New Center on Campus

Elena ’93 and Trustee Robert L. Allbritton ’92 have donated $5M to Wesleyan, to help build the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.
Posted 06/04/07
Trustee Robert L. Allbritton ’92, his wife Elena ’93 and family have pledged $5 million toward the renovation of Davenport Hall to house Wesleyan’s new Center for the Study of Public Life and to challenge younger alumni classes to contribute to the Wesleyan Fund. The Center will be named for the Allbritton family.

“Public life is changing, in part because new media have accelerated the exchange of ideas among leaders in government, business, the arts and sciences, and grassroots activism,” said Allbritton, founder of The Politico, a newspaper and web site already renowned for its coverage of Capitol Hill and national politics. “I am proud to think that The Politico supports and informs this exchange. I believe that the Center for the Study of Public Life at Wesleyan also can help us understand and elevate our evolving public discourse.”

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life is a response to significant changes across the social sciences, which include the creation of new interdisciplinary ventures, the use of multiple methodologies in research, and the rethinking of the idea of the public in a variety of intellectual and social movements. The Allbritton Center will build on evolving relationships between scholarly research and both the political process and the greater public. It will host courses taught by people who have had distinguished careers in public service, including law, business, government, the non-profit sector, and media. It also will house a Quantitative Analysis Center to educate students in the analysis and interpretation of large bodies of data.

Architectural planning is underway for the renovation of Davenport Hall, currently in use as a campus center, to house the Allbritton Center.

The Allbritton gift, in honor of Robert’s 15th reunion, is unprecedented in size for alumni of this generation. The Allbrittons have pledged a portion of their gift as matching funds to challenge members of Wesleyan’s younger alumni classes to give more.

The gift also honors two Wesleyan presidents: Doug Bennet, the University’s 15th president, who will complete a 12 year term this June, and Michael Roth, who will become the 16th president on July 1.

“Both Doug and Michael exemplify the finest qualities of the liberally educated,” said Allbritton. “Each has innovated across a range of activities and institutional settings. They are engaged, adaptive, and resourceful leaders.”

Bennet’s career has combined leadership roles at the U.S. Department of State and the presidencies of National Public Radio and Wesleyan. Roth, a historian, has shaped programs bridging scholarship, the arts and public life at Scripps College, the Getty Research Institute and California College of the Arts.

“This generous gift will help Wesleyan education keep pace with rapid changes in the workings of our democracy and our global society,” said Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “I am grateful to Robert Allbritton for his own commitments to quality and innovation and to the Allbritton family for their willingness to help keep Wesleyan in the forefront.”

The Politico features intensive coverage by seasoned political reporters that is targeted both at decision-makers and the public at large. Its primary medium is the Internet, so important stories often are updated three or four times a day, said Allbritton. At the same time, it produces a print edition and news programming for television and radio.

Robert Allbritton is chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications Company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. ACC is a family-owned company that owns and operates seven ABC-affiliated stations across the United States. ACC also owns and operates NewsChannel 8, a local 24-hour news cable programming service in the Washington metropolitan area.

Elena Allbritton is a physician and a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1993. The pledge comes jointly from Robert and Elena Allbritton and from a family foundation established by Robert’s parents, Joe L. and Barbara B. Allbritton.

“Wesleyan has a grand tradition of connecting research and education to the improvement of our public life,” said President-Elect Michael Roth. “I am very excited by the prospects of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Political Life to advance our understanding of how to be more effective global citizens. I look forward to working to ensure its success.”