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Hugh Downs celebrates unveiling of memorabilia collection at ASU

Hugh Downs views memorabilia
December 19, 2014

Hugh Downs was overwhelmed when he was asked to lend his name to the communication school at Arizona State University in 1999.

“I about fell over,” Downs said, during a recent event that unveiled a collection of memorabilia at the school. “I have had so much satisfaction and gratitude being connected with ASU in this way.”

Since those days, his involvement with the school has grown to include many facets of his career, in part reflecting the complexity of the school, which is dedicated to excellence in human communication, research, education and creative endeavors.

“Hugh Downs is an exemplar of the ways in which people who really understand communication create meaningful lives and careers for themselves,” said Linda Lederman, director of the school.

Hosting Downs at an event to showcase his generous donation of his memorabilia to the school presented an opportunity for faculty and staff to interact with the person for whom their school is named and to reaffirm their commitment to the field of communication, defined by the school as academic inquiry dedicated to the study of communication in everyday life.

Downs’ collection of approximately 300 items reflects his renowned broadcasting career, but his accomplishments and interests are as varied as hosting a game show, undergoing astronaut training and sailing across the ocean.

“Hugh understands communication in all aspects of life as a scientist, broadcaster and musician. In this way, he reflects the school’s vision to explore communication in everyday life, from families to work and from religion to culture,” Lederman said.

These interests and highlights from throughout his life are showcased through items such as a game based on the Chit Chat show that he hosted, a sextant that he used for navigation of his boat, Emmys from his long broadcasting career and honors that he has won throughout the years, such as the Dorothea Dix Award from the Mental Illness Foundation in 1991. On display is one of his books written about his long marriage to his wife, “Pure gold: A lifetime of love and marriage.”

Downs celebrated the unveiling of the collection with guests such as Lattie Coor, who was president of ASU when the school was named, and Bill Shover, formerly of the Arizona Republic, who asked Downs if he would lend his name to the school. He also offered words of wisdom to the crowd. One key to success he said is to always have a “plan B” in your back pocket, in case something doesn’t pan out.

“If you can be flexible about how you go into something, that’s good,” he said.

That spirit of flexibility was demonstrated in a class that Downs taught for communication post-graduate students a few years ago that ended in the wee hours of the morning.

“One of the most gratifying things I was ever involved in was a course a few years ago that started at 7 p.m. The audience was a bunch of post-graduates working on their PhDs. It started at 7 and ended at 1:30 a.m.,” he said.

Those students benefited from Downs’ insight through the years, much as the school has benefited through his participation and dedication to the field of communications.