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West Virginia journalism pioneers provide inspiration, opportunities for WVU students

In honor of two West Virginia journalism pioneers, two new endowments have been established at West Virginia University Reed College of Media, leaving a legacy of inspiration and generosity for aspiring young students.

Gruine RobinsonIn the 1940s, Gruine Robinson became the first female reporter and editor at the West Virginia Associated Press (AP). Meanwhile, long-time newspaper editor and manager Charles Hodel had established himself as a prominent leader in the Raleigh County community. Today, both Robinson and Hodel have endowments named in their honor at the College of Media to provide financial support for future generations of journalism students.

Robinson earned her first professional byline when she was a student at Welch High School in southern West Virginia. She scooped an interview with famous aviator Amelia Earhart for her school newspaper. The Welch Daily News picked up the story and hired Robinson upon her graduation. But her reporting career really took off in 1942, when the Charleston, West Virginia, AP bureau needed a wartime replacement reporter. Robinson jumped at the opportunity – making history as their first female reporter.

She returned to WVU and eventually earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from the College of Media (then the P.I. Reed School of Journalism) in 1948. She went on to work for McGraw-Hill Publishing; the AP in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and as a public information officer for the New Mexico Department of Health and the National Public Health Service in Washington, D.C.

Before her passing, Robinson named the College of Media as a beneficiary of her estate. With these funds, the College has established the Gruine Robinson Reed College of Media Scholarship, a four-year endowed scholarship for undergraduates. Only the second of its kind at the College, this scholarship is unique because students who receive it a freshmen will be able to rely on the same amount of funding each year through their senior year, assuming they continue to meet the criteria.

Gruine Robinson

Robinson’s friend and attorney Harold Krauthamer says Robinson valued the education she received at WVU and wanted others to have the same opportunity.

“Gruine always enjoyed helping people,” said Krauthamer, “and she knew that her education allowed her to go out into the world and do that. It was very important to her to give back to the College and to help others receive a good education.”

In addition to Robinson, the family of West Virginia newspaperman Charles Hodel also recently established a fund to provide financial support to students.

The son of Swiss immigrants, Hodel settled in southern West Virginia in the early 1900s, where he learned the printing trade. By the age of 25, he was serving as editor and manager of the Raleigh Register.

By 1929, Hodel acquired control of the Register’s main competitor, the Post-Herald, and became president and general manager of the new Beckley Newspapers Corporation and publisher of both papers.

An early West Virginia conservationist, Hodel launched an editorial campaign for conservation in the timbered-out hardwood forests of West Virginia and fought against irresponsible strip mining. He was an entrepreneur and community leader, and in 1961, was named The Charleston Gazette’s West Virginian of the Year. Two years later, he was inducted into the West Virginia Press Association’s Hall of Fame. Hodel’s legacy in the media industry was carried on by his sons, John and Emile, who also assumed leadership roles with the Raleigh-based newspapers in the 1950s and 1960s.

Hodel’s daughter, Rose Hodel Chrisley, established a planned gift in her father’s honor before she passed away. The Charles Hodel Endowment will serve as a student enhancement fund, providing financial support to students seeking large-market internship and study abroad experiences.

“Gifts like the ones from Gruine Robinson and the Hodel family play an important role in our students’ success,” said Diana Martinelli, acting dean of the College of Media. “With scholarships and enhancement funds, our students can focus more on their academics and gaining hands-on experience rather than worrying about the costs of tuition or living expenses. We hope more alumni and media professionals can follow their examples of giving.”

Both gifts were made in conjunction with A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University. The $1 billion comprehensive campaign being conducted by the WVU Foundation on behalf of the University runs through December 2017.

Read the official release at WVU Today.