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WVU School of Journalism donates books to Vietnam universities

Vietnam Embassy in Washington, D.C.

West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism (SOJ) recently donated books from its Reading Room to help Vietnam universities lacking resources.

The SOJ’s former Reading Room, located on the third floor of Martin Hall, was recently renovated into a suite of offices for faculty in the school’s popular Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) master’s program.

Because of space constraints, the majority of the books from the former Reading Room could not be kept. That’s when the school’s Ogden Newspapers Visiting Professor George Esper came up with the idea to help educators in Vietnam.

Esper, who covered the Vietnam War for The Associated Press for 10 years, was the last AP bureau chief there before the fall of Saigon in 1975. In May 2005, he returned to Vietnam and saw the financial difficulties many of the universities were having.

“After seeing all of these books being boxed up here at the SOJ, a light bulb came on,” said Esper. “Many of these universities in Vietnam are bare boned. They need all the help they can get. A lot of these books were out-of-date for our purposes, but I couldn’t see throwing them away. I knew that many of the universities in Vietnam are struggling and could really use them.”

But logistically, moving approximately 400 books across the ocean could present a problem. To start the ball rolling, Esper contacted his friend, Nguyen The Cuong, the press attaché at the Vietnam Embassy in Washington, D.C.

“I e-mailed Cuong, and he was delighted,” said Esper.

Fellow SOJ Assistant Professor Sheila Wexler personally delivered the books to Washington, D.C. Her delivery included 18 boxes with 20 to 30 books in each box.

The books ranged from topics covering mass communications, print journalism, broadcasting, public relations, direct marketing and advertising.

“They were thrilled to get these books,” said Esper. “Their budgets are very thin, and the students are generally not wealthy. They really thirst for knowledge. It just seemed like an ideal solution.”