The annual gifts from the Reynolds Foundation continued, and in 1986, after a presentation by Linn, Lerude and university President Joseph Crowley, Reynolds announced a $2.5 million challenge grant, inviting the university to match it for a $5 million building within three years. At the same time, he provided $25,000 for an architectural feasibility study and $50,000 to underwrite the cost of fund-raising.
During the three-year challenge grant period, the school raised more than $500,000 from alumni, friends and foundations, including $250,000 from the Gannett Foundation, $100,000 from the Ted Scripps family and $100,000 from the Walter Annenberg Foundation, honoring Nevada Senator Paul Laxalt.
On June 27, 1989, the Nevada legislature gave final approval to legislation including a $2.1 million appropriation to complete the match of Mr. Reynolds’ challenge. Construction began in 1990. The building was completed in autumn of 1992 and occupied in January of 1993.
While fundraising efforts during 1986-1990 focused on financing a new building for the new school, day-to-day attention was devoted to improving quality in instruction, advisement and recruitment, in building scholarship and research to balance the professional orientation of the school and in strengthening the master’s degree program. In this last regard, significant steps were taken, including the creation of a 12-credit core curriculum for the program and an innovative “professional research project” that combines the rigor of a thesis with the pragmatism of working with a media company or institution.
In January 1992, shortly after a re-accreditation of the school, James K. Gentry, formerly of the University of Missouri, became dean of the Reynolds School of Journalism.
Gentry’s priorities began with equipping the new building. By the time the building opened, the writing/editing lab and the graphics lab were equipped with new Macintosh computers.
Networking of the building followed shortly thereafter. The Lerudes gave $80,000 to enhance the Warren Lerude Writing Center with new computers capable of Internet access.
Other major advances during Gentry’s first three years were the hiring of new faculty, bringing new skills and greater balance, the revision of the curriculum to reflect the merging of media technologies and to emphasize critical thinking and ethical considerations and greater emphasis on diversity in the student body and elsewhere.
In July of 1997, Jimmy Gentry left to take up the position of dean of the William Allen White School of Journalism at the University of Kansas. Linn returned to administration to serve as interim dean for two years.
In 1999, William Slater was appointed as the third dean of the school until he moved to Texas Christian University in 2001.
Joann Lee became dean in 2001. She joined the Reynolds School of Journalism after a career in broadcast journalism and teaching assignments at Columbia University as well as Queens College in New York City, where she headed the journalism sequence. Illness forced her to leave the dean’s position after one year.