MU School of Journalism, Mizzou Botanic Garden announce $5 million gift

The gift comes from alumni Pat and Sandy Hiatte.

Nov. 16, 2020
Contact: Stephanie Fleming, 573-882-8353,

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The University of Missouri today announced a $5 million estate gift that will be split equally between the School of Journalism and the Mizzou Botanic Garden. The gift comes from Pat and Sandy Hiatte.

“We’re so grateful to Pat and Sandy Hiatte for their generous gift, which celebrates Mizzou’s comprehensive excellence,” University of Missouri President and Chancellor Mun Choi said. “From our world-class School of Journalism to our unrivaled campus beauty, MU is dedicated to achieving excellence at every level. This gift ensures the continuity of our commitment.”

This is a photo of Sandy and Pat Hiatte.

Sandy and Pat Hiatte cheering on the Tigers at a Mizzou football game. Note: This photo was taken before COVID-19.

Pat Hiatte, who graduated from the School of Journalism in 1973, hopes the $2.5 million gift will support MU’s professional newsroom operations and enable the school to remain a leader in journalism education and the news industry. Though his career ultimately took him from the newsroom to working in communications for a railroad company, Pat wanted to support strong community journalism and give back to his alma mater.

“Journalism improves everyone’s quality of life because it makes us more informed,” Pat Hiatte said. “It exposes us to ideas we might not otherwise come into contact with, it broadens our horizons and increases our ability to learn and function effectively as citizens.”

David Kurpius, dean of the School of Journalism, said this forward-thinking gift will position the school to better meet emerging needs and develop innovative ways to report the news. Because the gift is unrestricted, it will allow the school to pivot and respond to changes in the industry faster.

“Thanks to Pat and Sandy Hiatte, the School of Journalism will be better poised to implement future systems and technology we may not even know about yet,” Kurpius said. “It will be especially critical to our mission of collaboration across all our professional newsrooms and agencies with shared strategies for success and common resources.”

Additionally, Kurpius said the gift strengthens the school’s legacy. The “Missouri Method” of training journalism students in professional newsrooms through hands-on experience sets the school apart from every other journalism school in the world. Remaining on the cutting edge requires constant innovation and investment in new technology.

The other half of the $5 million gift will go to the Mizzou Botanic Garden, with an emphasis on tree projects like the Legacy Oaks project. Approximately 6,200 trees on MU’s campus make up the backbone of the 735-acre botanic garden landscape. In any given year, about 200 trees need to be replaced due to disease or decay.

Sandy, who studied social work at Mizzou before completing her degree at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, has long had a passion for gardening.

“It’s important to support this kind of beautification,” Sandy Hiatte said. “It not only keeps our campus looking great for our students and visitors, but the botanic garden also serves as a living laboratory for students in many different disciplines. The garden teaches us about ecology, plant science, natural resources and so much more. It’s a strong reminder for us all about the need to care for our environment.”

Since the Hiattes moved back to mid-Missouri in 2009, Sandy has followed closely the work of the botanic garden, which is constantly evolving season to season.

“This generous gift ensures the Mizzou Botanic Garden will endure and allows us to plan for its robust future,” said Pete Millier, director of Mizzou Botanic Garden. “It gives us the freedom to turn into reality projects that have so far only been plans on paper. Students and prospective students come here for our outstanding academic programs, and we get to create an atmosphere that produces an emotional response and reaffirms those decisions.”

According to Millier, the gift will allow the botanic garden to leverage additional support for the Legacy Oaks on the Francis Quadrangle, a project to replace pin oaks with stronger, healthier white oaks in order to keep MU’s campus beautiful for years to come.

Though career opportunities took the Hiattes away from Missouri for a time, the couple says the state and university they love has never left their hearts.

“We started dating in the middle of high school, and we both attended Mizzou together,” Pat Hiatte said. “The university is woven into the fabric of our lives, and that’s why it was so important for us to give back.”

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