What started with a man lending his name to a local university 15 years ago has become an institution dedicated to providing quality educational opportunities to students interested public communication.
Franklin Pierce University is celebrating the 15th anniversary of the opening of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication this school year.
“The 15th anniversary had been fantastic so far,” said the center’s director, Kristen Nevious. “We are starting to get attention on the national level. We would like to stay there.”
The Fitzwater Center began as a conversation between former Franklin Pierce University president George J. Hagerty and Marlin Fitzwater, one of the longest serving presidential press secretaries ever, who worked for both Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
After getting approval to use Fitzwater’s name, a capital campaign began, one that would attract both students and donations to the university. Initially a goal of $4.9 million was set to be raised by 2003, but $6.8 million had already been raised midway through 2002 and the center was dedicated on May 23, 2002.
“From the beginning, Franklin Pierce understood its obligation to fully enable and enact the mission of the Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication, the university’s first named center,” said current FPU President Kim Mooney. “Marlin Fitzwater honored us and in turn, our students honor him through their demonstrations of top-notch journalism and media skills, steeped in ethics and civil discourse.”
The Marlin Fitzwater Center for Communication was built for $4.5 million, designed as a 12,000 square foot attachment to the school’s library. The center is made up of fully operational audio and television suites, a seminar room equipped with a number of modern tools, classroom space, a multimedia lecture room, a computer lab, video editing suites, and an animation suite.
Fitzwater has become more than a name attached to a building, with Nevious saying the former press secretary is an integral part of the center’s identity.
“It’s invaluable having Marlin around,” said Nevious. “He knows who the kids are and he makes connections for them. He takes an interest because he believes it’s important for them to have a hands-on opportunity.”
Students working with the Fitzwater Center have certainly had their fair share of such experiences, with students getting access to cover a number of top political events, including local town hall debates, national conventions, and even the presidential inauguration.
Students also frequently engage in live television and radio shows, writing articles, photographing events, and working with the latest technology.
“The university has been very supportive in what we do here,” said Nevious, who said she has never had too much of a battle getting the newest reporting equipment.
While the center has been blessed over the years to have the technology and staff to guide students, Nevious said there is one constant that has kept the center going over the past 15 years.
“The Fitzwater Center is not the equipment, it’s the students,” said Nevious. “We give them the tools they need and we provide them guidance. Our students drive a lot of our development.”
The Fitzwater Center’s 15th anniversary will be capped off in 2017 with the annual Fitzwater Honors award ceremony, which will take place on April 27.
Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 235 or firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.