Richards named Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies

March 02, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- Robert D. "Bob" Richards, Distinguished Professor of Journalism and Law, has been named the John and Ann Curley Professor of First Amendment Studies in the College of Communications, effective July 1.

Richards will succeed Clay Calvert, the inaugural holder of the Curley Professorship, who in August will join the faculty at the University of Florida as the Joseph L. Brechner Eminent Scholar in Mass Communications in the College of Journalism and Communications.

Richards, who in 2006 was honored as Journalism Teacher of the Year by the Scripps Howard Foundation through its National Journalism Awards Program, was also named one a Distinguished Professor by the Office of the President that same year.

Richards joined the Penn State faculty in 1988 as an assistant professor after earning a law degree and working in broadcast journalism. He earned his undergraduate degree, Phi Beta Kappa, from Penn State. His master's degree also is from Penn State and his law degree is from American University.

"Bob is one of the most widely published media law scholars in residence at any of the country's journalism-mass communications programs," Dean Doug Anderson said. "And he is one of Penn State's most accomplished integrated scholars. He possesses sterling credentials as a teacher, researcher, writer and provider of service.

"We truly hate to see Clay, one of our field's superstars, move on. He's done a terrific job here for 13 years. We wish him well. But, at the same time, we are elated that the professorship will remain in good hands and now will be entrusted to Bob."

Richards is author or coauthor of three published books — all on First Amendment topics — and has completed the manuscript for a fourth: "Wine Savvy: The Art of Buying, Pairing and Sharing American Wine."

He also is author or co-author of 14 book chapters and more than 50 scholarly articles, some 45 of which have been published in law journals.

He is author or co-author of more than 100 articles in the popular press, most of which have appeared on op-ed pages, and he is a frequently quoted expert on First Amendment issues by the nation's print and broadcast media.

John and Ann Curley provided the College with a major gift in 2007 to establish the endowed professorship and to generate annual operating funds for the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment, which is housed in the College and which Richards founded in 1992.

Curley, the former president, chairman and CEO of Gannett Co. Inc., has served since 2001 as professor of journalism and distinguished professional in residence in the College.

"Bob is the ultimate symbol of this student-centered university," Curley said. "His classroom skills are unsurpassed. He thrives on media law classes. He travels to Washington weekly to shepherd the College's D.C. program, which he founded and for which he serves as director.  Bob refuses to give up the D.C. program to ease his load because he loves it so much.

"Bob also skillfully puts together student broadcast entries for major contests. He never says 'not my job,' and is always there to help.

"He is called upon frequently to assist the state's media as co-director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment, a dependable source of sound advice when anti-media barbarians are hammering at the gates."

The Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment has continuously provided educational programs, sponsored speakers, published books and articles in the popular and academic press, and served as a media resource on a wide array of First Amendment topics.

The work product of the Center has been cited to Congress, state legislatures and the U.S. Supreme Court. By providing expert testimony to legislative bodies and the courts and expert commentary to the regional and national media, the Center's members regularly represent the Center to the public and extend its reach beyond the academic environment.

The notion of public scholarship — disseminating research to a wide audience where it is both applicable and influential — lies at the core of the Center's mission.

The Center's members are available for commentary and testimony on a broad range of First Amendment topics, including: adult entertainment law, commercial speech, free speech in public schools, freedom of the press, higher education speech, privacy, cell phones and YouTube, protests and demonstration, reality television, SLAPP suits and violent video game laws.

The Center also has initiated an Open Records Clearinghouse Project that will compile information from reporters and track the performance of state agencies in regard to Right-to-Know requests.

Professor Martin Halstuk, senior fellow in the Center, directs the clearinghouse project.

Through the years, Richards has assumed numerous responsibilities in the College. He previously has served as associate dean for undergraduate education, as interim head of the Department of Journalism and as director of the College's internship program.

Ford Risley, head of the department of journalism, praised Richards’ appointment to the professorship.

"Bob is uniquely qualified to be the Curley Professor," Risley said. "As the founder of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment and a leading scholar on free-press issues, he will be outstanding in this important position."

"The professorship clearly is in great hands," Curley said. "And Bob brings more to the position than a great professional record. His humor, one-liners and impersonations bring laughter and relaxation to fellow faculty members when they gather after hours to pass tales of classroom foibles.

"A talented wine maker and lecturer, Bob's appearances range from the walls of ivy (the University Club) to the seat of government (the Smithsonian) and to television."

  • Robert Richards

    IMAGE: Penn State

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated November 18, 2010