November 16, 2017 0 comment

Maria Cole, Donor Of The Jeff Cole Legacy Fund & Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture Series

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November 28, 2017 9:00 AM - 10:00 AM

A University of Montana benefactor is re-evaluating future giving to the School of Journalism after the dean declined to host a conservative writer as its annual Cole lecturer.

Donor Maria Cole was married to the late Wall Street Journal reporter for whom the Jeff Cole Legacy Fund is named, and has given more than $1.2 million over the last 15 years to the School of Journalism.

The last nine years, Cole has sponsored the Jeff Cole Distinguished Lecture, inviting former colleagues of her husband to speak. She wanted the 10th anniversary to be different and decided to create an event that would spark civil discourse.

Each year, Cole said she selects a lecturer, and the School of Journalism chooses a scholarship recipient. After vetting potential candidates for speaker, she invited and entered into a contract with Mike Adams, professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

Adams won a First Amendment case in the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2011, and he's a columnist for Townhall.com, which aims to amplify conservative voices in political debates.

Adams regularly mocks leftists in his writing and his views earlier sparked a petition for his termination at UNC. He has targeted LGBT people, Muslims and feminists, and he has described transgender people as mentally ill.

For the first time in the tradition of the annual event, School of Journalism Dean Larry Abramson objected to the lecturer Cole selected, a reaction Cole said she never anticipated.

She said Adams has twice been voted best professor at UNC and he's a longtime defender of free speech, a foundation of journalism.

"I was so stunned," Cole said. "How can you say — especially the dean of a journalism school — how can you say you support free speech and deny this guy to come to campus?"