If you turn on TV news today and see anchors like Diane Sawyer, war correspondents such as Christiane Amanpour, and political pundits like Rachael Maddow, it may be difficult to imagine or remember the day when women were not a part of the broadcast news landscape.
Jessica Savitch was one of the handful of women who broke through broadcasting’s glass ceiling (or more accurately, the glass TV screen!). When she came to Ithaca College in 1964, she was one of nine young women who shared our studios and classrooms with 39 men in her class. There were no women on the TV-Radio faculty. But Jessica had a dream, and Ithaca College’s School of Communications was privileged to be a part of that and to give her a seat at the news desk.
Today, we continue to honor Jessica’s legacy. Ithaca College awarded her an honorary doctorate in 1979, at which time she was also our commencement speaker. She remained closely involved with the College throughout her career and returned to Ithaca periodically to teach a minicourse on television news. In 1980 she was elected to the Ithaca College Board of Trustees.
Each year, we also bring in a prominent broadcast journalist to make a public presentation as our Jessica Savitch speaker. And when we built Park Hall, the first building at the college dedicated to Communications, our most prominent TV studio was named for her. The many students who receive scholarships in her name and who cultivate their dreams and talents in the studio with her picture on the door can use this resource to learn more about the woman who paved the way for not just women – but for all serious broadcast pioneers – who want to make a difference in this great profession.
-Diane Gayeski, Dean, Roy H. Park School of Communications, Ithaca College