Forty-three years ago, Craig Struve turned his tassel as a Coe College graduate in history and economics. But after a successful business career, Struve landed in the field of communications and never looked back.
“I loved the TV business,” said Struve, who spent the last 19 years of his career directing a TV station in Colorado. “I was a news junkie growing up.”
So when Struve was approached three years ago under the “beer and brat tent” at Coe’s homecoming and asked to get behind a new communications program on the Cedar Rapids campus, he didn’t hesitate.
“I said, ‘I’m all in,’” Struve said.
He gave an initial gift of $300,000, along with a future commitment of a portion of his estate, and today Coe College is dedicating its new communication center in his honor. The Struve Communication Center houses the school’s communication studies’ program, its labs and classrooms, along with the Coe Cosmos student newspaper and the Coe Speaking Center.
Struve’s gift enabled the Eby Annex to be renovated for the new center, bolstering facilities and equipment and remodeling space for expanded instruction and course offerings.
“I’m absolutely ecstatic about what has been done and the effort and energy that the staff and faculty have put in,” he said. “I write the check, but these people are doing the work.”
Before the college began offering a communication studies major last year, Struve said, students interested in that field took rhetoric courses. In its first year as an official major, Struve said, 24 people signed up.
“I’m excited about the fact that we now have 59 students at Coe who have chosen communications studies as a major,” he said. “Everything is headed in the right direction.”
Going forward, Coe is planning to build a new television connection facility, along with the already refurbished radio station and campus newspaper.
“We have done this at warp speed – to build this thing and to bring this whole program and major on board in three years,” he said. “It has come together incredibly quickly.”
Struve, a Cedar Rapids native, said he wanted to make this commitment to Coe in honor of his parents, Howard and Mardean Struve, and their efforts to get him a college education.
“They were children of the depression – neither of them went to college,” he said. “But their entire goal in life was to make sure that I got a college education.”
After graduating from Coe in 1970, Struve pursued a successful business career before returning to Cedar Rapids in 1989 to care for his parents, according to Rod Pritchard, director of Coe’s marketing and public relations. At age 41, Struve made a career change, landing his first TV gig as an intern at KGAN in Cedar Rapids.
From Iowa, he went to Vail, Colo., and became director of television operations for Vail Resorts. He helped develop the largest resort TV station in the country, also acting as a liaison for major entertainment corporations while in town – like ESPN.
“We did a three-hour live show every day,” Struve said. “It was called Good Morning Vail. It’s still going strong.”
Struve, after spending 19 years at the station, retired and now is sharing the wealth.
“I love Cedar Rapids. I love the people of Iowa,” he said. “I wanted the opportunity to give back to a school that gave me a terrific education.”
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