$1M gift to College of Media establishes Mark L. Brandt Public Engagement Fellows Program

Mark L. BrandtThe College of Media has received an estate gift of just over $1 million to create the Mark L. Brandt Public Engagement Fellows program for undergraduates. 

Because of the profound impact that the University of Illinois had on the trajectory of Brandt’s life, his dear friend, fellow Illini, and trustee of his estate, Mary Leyendecker, chose to ensure that his legacy makes a positive impact on students and society. Brandt, a 1986 alumnus of Illinois who retired early from General Electric after a career in finance, passed away in January 2021. His wish was that the funds be used to “do good in the world.”

The funds, endowed in perpetuity, will provide internships to Media students to work with college faculty and staff on public engagement projects, and/or as participants in programs that are designed to support first-generation college students, students from underrepresented groups, and/or students with significant financial need. 

“This promises to have a transformative effect on our important efforts in public engagement and will meaningfully influence the lives of students for generations to come,” said Dean Tracy Sulkin. 

Beginning Fall 2022, the funds will be available on a competitive basis and will support up to 40 students each year who will work on a variety of college and department initiatives. 

For example, Mark L. Brandt Public Engagement Fellows will be able to contribute to faculty-led projects on media literacy and the Chancellor’s Call to Action to Address Racism and Social Injustice, engagement opportunities at Illinois Public Media, and more. Funds will also be used to support students in the New Voices internship program.

The Brandt Fellows will serve as models of engaged leadership and will gain skills and experiences that will allow them to chart a course toward a lifetime of societal impact through their careers in media and through their personal endeavors. 

 “I feel certain he would enjoy helping those who are going to help society,” Leyendecker said.

—Holly Rushakoff