Indiana University

Skip to:

  1. Search
  2. Breadcrumb Navigation
  3. Content
  4. Browse by Topic
  5. Services & Resources
  6. Additional Resources
  7. Multimedia News

Media Contacts

Jana Wilson
School of Public and Environmental Affairs

Steve Hinnefeld
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, October 26, 2009

Indiana University to name SPEA Atrium in honor of alumnus Tavis Smiley

While in town, Smiley to gift students with a financial scholarship, SPEA to match

Oct. 26, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA) will name the atrium of its IU Bloomington building for one of the school's best-known and most distinguished alumni: TV and radio host, author, philanthropist, advocate and documentary filmmaker Tavis Smiley.

John D. Graham, the dean of SPEA, contacted Smiley to request his approval for the renaming of the atrium, and Smiley consented. A renaming and dedication ceremony will take place Oct. 30.

"Indiana University empowered me to work towards a better society," said Smiley. "It is my hope that the Tavis Smiley Atrium will be an informal meeting place of ideas, hopes and action."

The School of Public and Environmental Affairs also announced that Smiley is donating $50,000 to the school to establish the Tavis Smiley Scholarship program for SPEA students from groups that are underrepresented in higher education. The school will match the contribution for a total of $100,000.

"If we are to ask the leaders and activists of the next generation to be accountable, we must ensure they have the necessary tools and means to reach their educational goals," said Smiley.

Smiley will give a talk about accountability at 1 p.m. and answer questions from students prior to the Oct. 30 renaming and dedication ceremony, which will begin at 1:45 p.m. A reception will follow.

"It is with great pride that the School of Public and Environmental Affairs has Tavis Smiley as one of our own," Graham said. "Just as he left a special mark on this university, we hope the atrium that will bear his name will be a special place for learning, discovery and collaboration."

In addition to speaking at IU Bloomington, Smiley will be the featured speaker for an empowerment breakfast Oct. 31 during the 19th reunion of the IU Neal-Marshall Alumni Club at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. See for information.

Smiley, named by Time magazine as one of "The World's 100 Most Influential People" in 2009, is the host of the television talk show "Tavis Smiley" on PBS and radio's "The Tavis Smiley Show," distributed by Public Radio International (PRI). In 2007, he made television history as moderator and executive producer of the All-American Presidential Forums on PBS, the first Democratic and Republican presidential debates broadcast live in prime time with a panel made up of journalists of color.

He is the author of 14 books including the best-selling What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America and his latest, Accountable: Making America As Good As Its Promise, which examines hard-hitting truths facing the United States and addresses how political leaders, corporations and everyday Americans can enforce accountability and effect change.

Smiley is the presenter and creative force behind the traveling museum exhibit America I AM: The African American Imprint and the founder of the Tavis Smiley Foundation, which was established to provide leadership training and development for youth.

One of 10 children, Smiley graduated from Maconaquah High School near Kokomo. He arrived at IU Bloomington with an admission letter, a suitcase and a few dollars in his pocket. Befriended by the late Jimmy Ross, who was then director of the IU Office of Scholarships and Financial Aid, he thrived at IU and later went on to a remarkable career in politics, broadcasting and publishing.

He was the featured speaker for commencement at IU Bloomington in May 2007, and also received The President's Medal for Excellence. The same year, he received the Distinguished Alumnus of the Year Award from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, the school's highest honor.

The Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs is a world leader in public affairs and the environmental sciences and is the largest school of public affairs in the United States, each year awarding 500 bachelor's degrees and 250 graduate degrees. In the 2009 "Best Graduate Schools" by U.S. News & World Report, SPEA ranks second and is the nation's highest-ranked graduate program in public affairs at a public institution. Six of its specialty programs are ranked in the top 10 listings.

For more information, see