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BU Trustee Robert Hildreth Gives Record Gift to WBUR

“Transformative” $1 million will go to education reporting


BU trustee Robert Hildreth has given a record $1 million to WBUR, BU’s National Public Radio station, a gift that will allow the station to significantly expand its coverage of education.

Hildreth’s gift, the radio station’s largest ever from an individual and the first seven-figure donation toward its capital campaign, will be used to assemble a team—an editor, a reporter, and likely a producer and a multimedia developer producer—to cover both K-12 and higher education, says Sam Fleming, WBUR’s managing director of news and programming.

The team will produce on-air reports, special podcasts, and online coverage, possibly on a platform and/or phone app developed with money from the gift. The team also will contribute to National Public Radio’s new education coverage initiative, NPR Ed, which would have been impossible without Hildreth’s “transformative” gift, says general manager Charlie Kravetz.

For a city so dominated by education (one of Boston’s nicknames is the Athens of America), Kravetz says, the local media, his station included, undercover the topic currently. “Right now, we don’t have an education reporter,” he says. “We have a variety of reporters who cover education when stories come up.”

“This is probably the center of higher education in America,” says Fleming. Just as WBUR has a blog devoted to health issues, “we believe education deserves the same kind of treatment.” But Fleming and Kravetz stress that the new team won’t be just all-higher-education-all-the-time. Issues roiling K-12 education in Massachusetts, from charter schools to adopting national Common Core learning standards, will also be a focus, Kravetz says.

The goal will be to talk not just “to education wonks,” but also to families dealing with dinner-table issues, from the soaring cost of college to the competition among high schoolers for precious slots at universities. Almost anyone “could come up with a list as easily as I could. There are a lot of things to talk about,” Fleming says. He hopes the first reports by the new team will appear by late summer or early fall.

Education is a longtime passion of Hildreth’s. The founder and president of International Bank Services, which trades and services loans globally, he is also founder and executive director of Families United in Educational Leadership (FUEL Education). The nonprofit organization helps low-income families send their children to college by providing services from information to financial incentives. In the current graduation season, more than 100 students in greater Boston will graduate high school with college savings accounts arranged with FUEL’s help.

“WBUR puts a human face on the problems confronting college students today,” says Hildreth, who has written about student debt and other problems for WBUR’s opinion page, “Cognoscenti.”

A BU trustee since 2011, Hildreth gave $2 million five years ago to the University’s Creative Writing Program. He is a graduate of Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and George Washington University.

Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

5 Comments on BU Trustee Robert Hildreth Gives Record Gift to WBUR

  • Tricia on 06.10.2014 at 9:22 am

    Well done, Mr. Hildreth!

  • Sara on 06.10.2014 at 10:33 am

    This is a wonderful contribution from Mr. Hildreth! I look forward to tuning into the new programming.

  • Anne Marie on 06.10.2014 at 4:25 pm

    I thank God for people like you, way to go. Please keep up the good deeds. Thank you for being so generous.

  • James Iffland on 06.10.2014 at 9:38 pm

    A very well-conceived initiative on the part of Trustee Hildreth. My congratulations!

  • Melissa on 08.25.2014 at 11:59 am

    That’s a very substantial donation, thank you so much for your awareness of our radio station. Many many futures to you and to all those who are participating in the Journalism studies. Their contributions to society are also greatly appreciated.

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