Former Presidential Adviser, Head of MPAA Jack Valenti Had Longstanding Ties with University

HOUSTON, April 25, 2008 – The School of Communication at the University of Houston will be named to honor the late Jack Valenti, adviser to President Lyndon Johnson and head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) for nearly four decades.  Valenti, who died last year at the age of 85, was born and raised in Houston and was a graduate of the University of Houston (1946).  
Plans to change the name to the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication were announced today at the school’s annual scholarship banquet. 
    “This is an important step to acknowledge Valenti’s longstanding association with the University of Houston and the city of Houston,” said Welcome W. Wilson Sr., chairman of the UH System Board of Regents. Wilson was both a longtime friend and former business partner of Valenti’s.  “Jack was the greatest communicator that I have ever known,” Wilson said.
 Valenti attended the University of Houston during the 1940s, working at Humble Oil during the day and pursuing his degree in business administration by taking evening classes.  His enrollment was interrupted by World War II, during which he served as a B-25 pilot, but he returned to graduate in 1946.  At UH, he worked on The Daily Cougar student newspaper and served as president of the Student Association and as vice chairman of Frontier Fiesta committee.
Following graduation, Valenti headed the UH alumni organization and was appointed to the first Board of Regents when UH became a state university in 1963.  He was honored by UH with its Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1952 and with an honorary doctorate in 2002.
In his memoir This Time, This Place, Valenti wrote, “The day I enrolled in the University of Houston was the most exalted day of my life ... If there had been no UH, I don’t know what turn my life would have taken.” 
  In 1963, Valenti went to Washington, D.C., to work as a special assistant to President Johnson during the turbulent Vietnam era. He became head of the MPAA in 1966 and held that powerful position for 38 years.  He was widely applauded as a commanding public speaker and a skilled lobbyist on behalf of the film industry’s interests.

   “Jack always seemed to know what to say and the best way to say it,” Wilson said. “What, then, could be a better description of communications?”
Valenti was the author of five books, numerous essays and articles in premier newspapers and magazines, and nearly a decade’s worth of Saturday columns for the Houston Post. Valenti earned an MBA from the Harvard Business School in 1948 and co-founded the highly successful public relations and advertising executive firm Weekley & Valenti in 1952. 
Members of Valenti’s family attended the event, including his widow, Mary Margaret, his son John, his daughter Alexandra and his sister Lorraine.
Valenti’s desk, professional library and copies of all his speeches are being donated to the school.
 The renaming of the school is subject to formal approval by the UH System Board of Regents.
“As we improve the school’s infrastructure and expand its scholarship opportunities, I am confident that it will achieve the level of excellence and national recognition with which the Valenti name is synonymous,” said Beth Olson, director of the School of Communication.
“Renaming the school in honor of Jack Valenti will serve as an inspiration to generations of students as they follow their own path to success,” said John Antel, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences.
UH’s School of Communication offers undergraduate and graduate degrees focusing on a wide range of communication studies.  Bachelor’s concentrations focus on public relations, advertising, journalism, corporate communication, media studies, media production and interpersonal communication. Master’s concentrations are in public relations studies, speech communication and mass communication studies. Curriculum is taught by the school’s acclaimed faculty, including media veterans and award-winning scholars and researchers. Among the school’s esteemed alumni are CBS sportscaster Jim Nantz, former White House press secretary Peter Roussel, former ABC News reporter Tom Jarriel, filmmaker Walter Coblenz, sports journalist and author Mickey Herskowitz, Houston Rockets broadcaster Bill Worrell and Houston KPRC-TV, Channel 2, anchor Dominique Sacshe.
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Michelle Hempton
(713) 237-9999
Author: Michelle Hempton
Phone: (713) 237-9999