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Communication education at Drake has a long and distinguished history, beginning in 1919 when the College of Commerce, Finance and Journalism was established. From that day to this, studies in journalism have retained a place of pride in Drake’s array of professional curricula. A separate School of Journalism was created at Drake in 1962.

Early leaders in communication education at Drake included Gardner “Mike” Cowles, who served as department head from 1928-29, while he was also managing editor of The Des Moines Register and Tribune. A year later, Cowles hired Dr. George Gallup to head the department. Gallup had served on the faculty at the University of Iowa and went on later to begin his national polling organization. These early leaders set communication education at Drake on a course that emphasized a strong relationship with practicing professionals, hands-on learning and applied research. Course offerings included newspaper management, advanced reporting, specialized writing and “newspaper trends.”

By the early 1930s, there were 24 JMC courses, including four advertising courses, high school journalism for teachers, dramatic criticism, play reviews and “camera reporting,” the department’s first venture into photojournalism. In a parallel development, a Radio Department began in the College of Fine Arts and moved into the College of Commerce and Finance the following year. Radio courses could be taken as part of the news-editorial sequence in journalism.

The decade of the 1960s was a time of major development for the newly established School of Journalism . The first television courses were offered in 1960. By mid-decade, Meredith Hall – designed by internationally famous “less-is-more” architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe – was built to house the school, and a radio-television department was established. Hugh Curtis, former editor of Better Homes and Gardens, was named the first dean of the school. The news-editorial and advertising sequences of the school won accreditation from the American Council on Education for Journalism (ACEJ) in 1972. In 1980, advertising and news-editorial were accredited again, and the public relations sequence was accredited for the first time. In 1981, the name of the school was changed to the School of Journalism and Mass Communication to reflect its diversity of offerings. It was reaccredited in 1987, 1992, 1998, 2005, 2011 and 2017.