Nelson Poynter


The Media School Distinguished Alumni Award (2011)
B.A., 1924
Honorary Degree (1976)
Doctor of Laws
Location: Bloomington
Presenter: John William Ryan
Distinguished Alumni Service Award (1957)
B.A., 1924


Nelson Poynter is among that select group of Indiana University graduates whose achievements in the fields of communications are internationally recognized. The Sullivan, Indiana native was born in the newspaper business, but his contributions to the field of communications have had impact on mass media in general and are helping to create a better understanding of the media and American institutions.
Mr. Poynter is Chairman of the Board of the St. Petersburg Times and Evening Independent and Chairman of the Board of Congressional Quarterly, which he and the late Henrietta Poynter founded. Congressional Quarterly also publishes and syndicates editorial research reports and books on politics and government. The two services are used by more than 500 newspaper, news magazine, and broadcasting clients. They also serve more than 1,000 college and high school political science departments and public libraries.

Mr. Poynter received his B.A. degree from Indiana University in 1924 and the MA. degree from Yale University in 1927. He was awarded the Distinguished Alumni Service Award by Indiana University in 1958. In 1962 he was given an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Stetson University College of Law, and in 1970 he received an honorary doctorate from Eckerd College. He is an Associate Fellow of Silliman College, Yale University, and past president of Sigma Delta Chi national professional journalism society.

During World War II Mr. Poynter served as deputy to General "Wild Bill" Donovan and helped to activate what is now the United States Information Services, an arm of the U.S. government's overseas activity which founded the "Voice of America." Before coming to St. Petersburg in 1938, Mr. Poynter worked for Scripps-Howard and several other publishers in various cities - ranging from Tokyo to Minneapolis and Wash-ington - in both editorial and business capacities.

Mr. Poynter and his publications have received numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. Honors and recognitions have also been received from the American Heritage Foundation, Freedoms Foundation, American Bar Association, American Legion of Florida, National Education Association, National Headliners Club, and the Distinguished Service to Journalism award (University of Missouri). A contribution of particular significance to Indiana University, the State of Indiana, and the cause of higher education is the funding of what has been named The Poynter Center on the Public and American Institutions. Concerning this and other generous contributions to Indiana University, he has remained modestly in the background. It was not his idea that the center, which explores credibility and public conceptions of American institutions, be named for him. He even suggested that it might be to the advantage of the center to use another name.

Mr. Poynter's gift to Indiana University for the purpose of establishing what became the Poynter Center was based on public spirit and responsible citizenship. He wanted to help his alma mater; at the same time he also wanted to help his country in a time of trouble. For this reason, he specified that the gift should deal with public confidence in American institutions. Mr. Poynter is married to the former Marion E. Knauss, a newspaperwoman with wide experience in Washington and Europe. She was an editorial writer on the St. Petersburg Times before their marriage.