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Joan W. Konner has been a producer and executive for 25 years in commercial network television and in public television -- for years with Bill Moyers -- before serving for eight years as the Dean of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism starting in September 1988.
She was the fifth dean and first woman to head the school which was struggling at the time to overcome problems of an aging physical plant, the demands of rapid technological change in the field, two years of interim leadership under an acting dean and concern among faculty over the University's commitment to the school.
Her enthusiasm attracted an outpouring of gifts from alumni and major donations from foundations and industry to begin and develop academic initiatives, putting the school on firm financial footing. She became a magnet for talent, drawing top faculty, lecturers and students to the school. At a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the First Amendment she organized at Columbia in 1991, Salman Rushdie appeared and spoke in public for the first time following the threat on his life. Last year, four graduates of the school won the Pulitzer Prize.
In curricular matters, she obtained gifts to create fellowships to study children's issues, arts and cultural affairs reporting, as well as medical and health reporting. Seminars in religion and racial issues were also added. She established a dual-degree program in earth and environmental science journalism, and the Reuter Forum on critical issues in international economics attended by hundreds of journalists and business leaders.