AUSTIN, Texas—The family of the late Mary Alice Davis, who was a columnist and editorial writer for the Austin American-Statesman, is establishing a lecture program in journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.
Davis, a 1965 graduate of the university’s School of Journalism, died last year after a 22-month battle with ovarian cancer.
The Mary Alice Davis Distinguished Lectureship will bring notable journalists to campus to discuss the role of journalism in society. Jim Davis, a retired journalist and 1963 journalism graduate, described his wife as a remarkable writer who championed the role of journalism in a democracy.
“The Distinguished Lectureship will bring in journalists who represent the values that Mary Alice lived by and instill some of those values in future journalists so that her legacy will go on,” he said. “It is a fitting tribute.”
After an initial contribution of $40,000 this year, the lectureship fund will grow to at least $200,000 within five years. Interest from the fund will ensure continual annual lectures after that period.
“There are so many concerns surrounding the state of journalism right now: issues of press freedom, credibility and the role the press plays in a democracy,” said Lorraine Branham, director of the School of Journalism. “To the Davis’s credit, establishing this lectureship gives us the opportunity to talk about these issues with our students.”
The first lecture is being planned for fall 2005 and every fall thereafter. A special advisory committee composed of School of Journalism faculty and working journalists will determine guest speakers.
In addition to the public lecture, featured speakers might address journalism classes or participate in student roundtable discussions, enabling faculty and students to focus on an issue in an important way.
Prior to working for the Austin American-Statesman, Mary Alice Davis spent more than 20 years writing for the House Research Organization (a research organization for the Texas House of Representatives), most recently as editor. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter for the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, where she worked alongside—and later married—Jim Davis. The two met as journalism students working for the Daily Texan in the 1960s.