Alumnus displays commitment by endowing scholarship for journalism students

May 27, 2021

A Penn State journalism graduate who has built a career defined by a commitment to strong community journalism displayed his commitment to students with a recent gift to the University.

With a $50,000 gift, Bob Heisse, the executive editor of River Valley Media Group in La Crosse, Wisconsin, has endowed the Bob Heisse Scholarship for students with financial need in the Donald P. Bellisario College of Communications.

“It’s something I had been planning to do, and having a plan made it possible. I’m excited to be able to provide support that can help deserving students,” said Heisse, who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1979. He was a scholarship recipient himself, and he started his career in daily newspaper journalism immediately after graduation with the Bucks County Courier Times. “I certainly got boost from communications scholarships during my time at Penn State.”

Before joining River Valley Media Group, Heisse served in top editor positions in Kenosha, Wisconsin; northwest Indiana; and Springfield, Illinois. He also previously served as executive editor of the Centre Daily Times in State College.

Heisse, who now oversees three daily newspapers (the La Crosse Tribune and Chippewa Herald in Wisconsin and the Winona Daily News in Minnesota) and several weeklies for River Valley Media Group, believes investing in student success can pay dividends for communities and media organizations in the future.

He also believes students need a variety of skills to enable them to succeed and best serve their communities through journalism that focuses on local issues and the impact local decisions and events have on people.

“I love community journalism,” Heisse said. “While there always are challenges, there has never been a better time to report stories using multiple platforms. Journalists can reach more people than ever before using video and social media.”

Papers under Heisse’s leadership have earned two top-tier awards — the Lee Enterprises President's Award for coverage of civil unrest in Kenosha and a presidential award from McClatchy Newspapers for coverage of the Jerry Sandusky scandal while Heisse was at the Centre Daily Times, where he spent 10 years as the paper’s top editor.

“We have many alumni who have positively impacted the communities where they have worked during their standout journalism careers, and to have someone like Bob Heisse reinvest in Penn State and our current students is special,” said Dean Marie Hardin of the Bellisario College. “It’s a tangible sign of his commitment to the future of journalism.”

Heisse served as president of the national Associated Press Media Editors in 2012. He also previously served as president of the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.

This gift will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit greaterpennstate.psu.edu.

Last Updated May 27, 2021