Faculty member and wife commit to bequest supporting Curley Center

July 20, 2020

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — When John Affleck joined the Penn State faculty in 2013, he was pretty sure he would enjoy the opportunity to bring his extensive professional experience to the classroom. It seemed like a good fit.

Seven years later, he not only likes the job — he serves as the Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society, leading the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism — he loves it. It’s a great fit.

Affleck has earned awards for his teaching, guided students to award-winning efforts themselves and led college-wide committees that have produced curricular change.

So, as part of an approach to “give back,” Affleck and his wife, Jessica Ancker, will create an endowment fund through a $50,000 bequest to the University to support the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, benefitting people and programs for years to come. The couple has also made an annual commitment to provide immediate impact.

“Being part of the Penn State community, and contributing to its educational mission as one of America’s great public universities, has been a huge joy in my life. Jessica and I would like to ensure that Curley Center students of the future enjoy the same kind of opportunities that my students have had.”

— John Affleck, Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society

“Being part of the Penn State community, and contributing to its educational mission as one of America’s great public universities, has been a huge joy in my life,” Affleck said. “Jessica and I would like to ensure that Curley Center students of the future enjoy the same kind of opportunities that my students have had.”

The fund will be used to enrich the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications by providing monies for the Curley Center to support travel expenses related to professional-level, journalistic reporting opportunities for students. Additional expenditures will include visiting lecturers, travel costs, research, program expenditures, equipment purchases, course development, and undergraduate scholarships.

“The Curley Center is a treasured program for current students as well as a growing number of alumni,” said Jose Lugaro, the Bellisario College’s director of development. “John and Jessica’s support makes a difference today and helps ensure the program will thrive for years to come.”

Affleck joined the Bellisario College after a long and successful career in news and sports at The Associated Press. As director of the Curley Center, which involves more than 100 undergraduate students pursuing an academic certificate, he leads an endeavor that emphasizes not only traditional reporting skills and ethical practices, but also mastery of social media, reporting on off-the-field issues, and in-depth enterprise reporting. Affleck's goal is to develop students who think critically, communicate effectively and are prepared to take over as leaders in the world of sports media, whatever the platform.

Affleck was honored as a Penn State Teaching Fellow, a University-wide award, in 2019 and earned the Excellence Award for Teaching from the Bellisario College Alumni Society Board in 2015. In both instances, students praised his passion and patience.

His students have covered the Penn State football game in Ireland for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association (PNA), the Penn State baseball game in Cuba for PNA and the Rio Paralympics in 2016 for the AP.

In 2017, Affleck’s class created an award-winning sports documentary featuring European fans who love American football. The film, “Quiet Sundays,” was shot during 10 days in London, culminating around two NFL football games at Wembley Stadium. It premiered in 2018 at the Southampton International Film Festival and won several awards on the film festival circuit.

The Curley Center’s second student documentary, “Running Home,” was shot in New York City and Puerto Rico in 2019 and tells the inspiring story of the hurricane relief efforts of track coach Tony Ruiz. The film was picked up for national distribution by the kweliTV streaming service and has been seen by more than 70,000 viewers in just a few months.

Affleck also serves as faculty adviser to the Penn State chapter of the Association for Women in Sports Media, which was honored as national student chapter of the year twice in the past three years.

Ancker is an associate professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medical College. Her research focuses on using health information technology to improve decisions and healthcare quality.

Last Updated July 29, 2020