The legacy and impact of a $20,000 teaching award
Bill Payden (Jour’57) loved traveling the world and being a journalist. He loved his collection of miniature cars and airplanes. He loved his older sister, Joan Payden, and his cat, Neely. And he loved being a professor.
In 2005, his passion for teaching and desire to reward those who have chosen teaching as a career led him to establish an eponymous faculty award given out annually at the College of Media, Communication and Information.
Payden and his sister were born in Connecticut but attended grade school in Jakarta, Indonesia, where their father worked for Union Carbide. He started college at Notre Dame and very much enjoyed the academics, but the weather and his desire to go West convinced him to make a move after two years. He’d spent a summer in Colorado working near the Four Corners and, because of that, chose to finish his undergraduate studies at the University of Colorado Boulder in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. According to Joan Payden, he knew immediately that CU Boulder was the right fit.
After graduation, Payden returned to the East Coast and became a reporter and feature writer for the Mamaroneck (N.Y.) Daily Times. He liked small-town life and once turned down an opportunity to write for The New York Times because he did not want to live in the city. Eventually, he paused his reporting career and moved to California to earn a master’s degree in American studies from California State University, Los Angeles.
In 1970, 13 years after graduating from CU Boulder, he turned his attention to teaching. He joined the faculty at Los Angeles Valley College, developed its journalism program and chaired the journalism department for more than a decade.
Payden never forgot CU Boulder and was a loyal donor for many decades. In 2005, he started the William R. Payden Faculty Excellence Award, which recognizes superior teaching and research or creative work with a $20,000 cash prize. This prize, first given in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and now at CMCI, is the largest faculty award given at the school or college level at CU Boulder.
“Bill thought professors gave up a lot in order to teach,” Joan Payden says. “He was very conscious of that.”
In 2010, he donated $500,000 to endow this award and ensure its future.
“The Payden Award provides CMCI the unique opportunity to present a significant monetary award to an outstanding professor,” says Lori Bergen, founding dean of CMCI. “Faculty members in higher education seldom receive this level of acknowledgment and reward.”
Although Bergen never had the opportunity to meet Bill Payden, she has gotten to know him through conversations with his sister. “We are very proud to have him as an alumnus and very grateful for the impact he has had at CMCI,” Bergen says.
Although he died in 2013, Payden’s impact at CMCI continues to grow.
Joan Payden, who runs Payden & Rygel, a global investment management firm, contributed to Bill’s legacy by directing more than $800,000 from his estate to CMCI. Those funds were used to create a second endowment, the William R. Payden Endowment for Teaching Excellence, which is used to award smaller grants to CMCI faculty to reward outstanding work and support innovation in teaching, professional development and research. In June 2021, Joan donated an additional $500,000 to the Payden teaching grant endowment, ensuring that faculty can benefit from the award for years to come.
Payden teaching grants have helped CMCI evolve by supporting faculty engagement in curricular development. In 2019, Pat Ferrucci, an associate professor in the Department of Journalism, received a Payden teaching grant for his leadership in establishing CMCI’s sports media minor. Ferrucci also received the Payden Award in 2020.
“Receiving the Payden Award meant a great deal to me,” Ferrucci says. “As a professor, I started teaching to make a difference and maybe help students think about journalism through a more critical and equitable lens. This award is a nice recognition that I’m hopefully accomplishing these goals.”
When Joan Payden thinks of her brother, two words come to mind. “Bill was passionate and committed no matter what he did,” she says.