‘The Duchess’ donates $1.2 million to SIUC

By Gus Bode

“The Duchess” may be gone, but her memory lives on.

Friends, former colleagues and administrators gathered Thursday evening to remember Virginia “The Duchess” Marmaduke. The Pinckneyville native died in 2001 at age 93.

Marmaduke, who worked with WSIU-TV for many years, left $1.2 million to the College of Mass Communication and Media Arts in her will.


This donation will help further establish the legacy Marmaduke has created at the University, said Dean Manjunath Pendakur.

Marmaduke earned her nickname during her days as a Chicago reporter when her editor found her last name too hard to yell across the room, according to the Marmaduke Scholars Program.

She spent most of her 35-year career working in Chicago. In that time, she gathered many awards and titles, including the first woman in Chicago with a sports byline, one of the first female crime reporters, and the first woman to receive Press Veteran of the Year in 1979.

In the early 1940s, Marmaduke became the first female reporter for the Chicago Sun and was a groundbreaking female journalist.

“She was an early-advocacy type journalist,” said Jak Tichenor, a WSIU producer. “She saw a wrong, she wanted to right it.”

Attendees were able to view clips from the oft-aired PBS documentary featuring Marmaduke, which revealed much of her personality.

“I want to cover blood, guts and sex,” she said in the documentary.


She moved back to southern Illinois in 1965 and began the next chapter of her life where she was a tireless volunteer for the University and benefactor. She contributed time to fund-raising efforts and money to radio-television and journalism student scholarships, Tichenor said. She also worked with WSIU-TV.

To continue the tradition as she stipulated in her will, a majority of the donation will go to scholarships, Pendakur said. An endowment for juniors in journalism or radio-television will receive $850,000. About $77,000 will go to the Virginia Marmaduke Lectureship Endowed Fund to bring media professionals to lecture at the University, and the Virginia Marmaduke Media Center Activities Endowment for research into media issues will receive about $293,000.

At the reception, the focus soon changed from the donation to remembering Marmaduke’s life and legacy as speakers and others in attendance shared their memories of her influence on their lives.

Joseph Arimond, senior vice president and managing director for International Public Relations in Barrington, said he will remember for her particular affinity for blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

“Well we miss her, what can I say? We wish she could have lived forever,” said Arimond, a 1972 alumus.

Reporter Katie Pennell can be reached at [email protected].