A Penn State faculty member has put the University's student-centered approach into practice beyond the classroom by endowing an award to honor a student for exemplary achievement in on or off-campus media related to the First Amendment or other legal issues.
Communications Professor Robert Richards created the Robert D. Richards Media and the Law Award with a $20,000 gift to the University. Each year, one senior undergraduate student from the College of Communications will be selected to receive the award.
The award represents a key contribution to the University's "For the Future" campaign, designed to enhance student scholarships and support at Penn State.
"Penn State has been a major part of my life for nearly three decades, and I'm delighted to contribute in a way that honors students for their achievements," said Richards, a Penn State alumnus who holds an endowed position as the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies. He serves as founding director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment, and as a co-chair for the faculty/staff campaign effort in the College of Communications.
More than 150 senior communications majors complete internships or work for on or off-campus media outlets each year, making all of them eligible for the award. Recipients of the award will be selected by the College of Communications scholarship committee.
"We have many wonderful students in the College who have demonstrated, through their media work, a tremendous appreciation for the First Amendment," Richards said.
Additional contributions to the award fund may be made by interested persons or organizations.
Richards, the author of three books and more than 130 articles about the First Amendment and mass communications law, appears frequently in the media commenting on First Amendment issues.
At Penn State, he has served as the head of the Department of Journalism and associate dean of the College of Communications. In addition, he created and currently directs the Penn State Washington, D.C. program.
In April 2007, Richards received the Scripps Howard Foundation National Journalism Teacher of the Year Award. He was the winner of the 2006 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Integrated Scholarship, the 1998 Dean's Award for Excellence in Research, the 1997 Dean's Award for Excellence in Service, and the 1994 Excellence in Teaching Award from the College of Communications Alumni Society.
He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in mass communications law, the First Amendment and news media ethics.