Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation

The Virginia SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation is a non-profit journalism education foundation created initially to provide college scholarships to promising students at Virginia colleges and universities to encourage them to pursue careers as journalists.

Starting in the early ‘60s, SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter members raised money for scholarships by hosting informal happy hours after chapter programs. Alf Goodykoontz, then-managing editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch and a national president of SPJ, promoted the project, which awarded its first scholarship in 1971.

In the early 1980s, chapter member Wilford Kale, a Region 2 director of SPJ and SPJ Virginia Pro member, spearheaded the effort to formalize the foundation as a not-for-profit Virginia corporation (IRS 501.c.3 charitable organization), making donations to the foundation tax-deductible to the donor. That required creating the foundation governing board distinct from the chapter with an independent, “arms-length” board of directors.

The foundation has always relied on SPJ Virginia Pro Chapter to assist in raising funds, not only to award scholarships, but also to build and endowment/investment fund that would permanently earn the funds to award scholarships. That was done primarily through the sale of tickets to the annual George Mason Banquet and a silent auction at the event, as well as an annual cash donation by the chapter to the foundation.

In recent years, instead of providing scholarships, the foundation adopted a new structure of awarding fellowships to support college journalists’ summer internships.

Today, foundation fellows receive cash stipends to support at minimum six-week summer internship with a bona fide news organization. The money is tax-free if used for any purposes needed to complete an internship. The funds should help reduce the effects of performing an internship, instead of working at a summer job. And, the money does not count against college financial aid.

The foundation’s board

  • President: Anna Billingsley of the University of Mary Washington and former chapter president
  • Secretary: Clissa England, freelance writer and former chapter president
  • Treasurer and executive director: Brian Eckert, independent communications consultant and former chapter president
  • Caroline Cardwell of the Virginia Retirement System, outgoing chapter VP and longtime chapter board member
  • Martha Steger, freelance writer and longtime chapter officer and member

How to donate

Financial support from the foundation has helped more than 90 people launch careers in journalism and other communication fields. Want to help? You can make a donation by mailing a check (payable to Va. SPJ,SDX Educational Foundation) to:

Brian Eckert 
VSSEF Treasurer
2701 River Oaks Dr.
Midlothian, VA 23113

Donations are tax-deductible, and 100 percent of donations go toward the foundation’s journalism education programs.

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