CultureCurrent IssueGiving

WGCU receives three transformative gifts

It’s been a stellar year for WGCU as three major donors have stepped forward to support public media in Southwest Florida at unprecedented levels.

Myra Janco Daniels made a $3 million gift to support arts programming on WGCU TV.  To honor her generosity, WGCU has named the building housing its TV and radio studios at Florida Gulf Coast University the Myra Janco Daniels Public Media Center.

Daniels said of the gift, “I was blown away with the idea of bringing the arts to hundreds of thousands of viewers in Southwest Florida.  WGCU is truly Southwest Florida’s largest stage. I think every private citizen has a public responsibility and this is a great opportunity to give back.”

She said she hopes her gift motivates others to support public broadcasting in Southwest Florida.

Daniels is the founder of the Philharmonic Center for the Arts and a former advertising executive. She is author of “Secrets of a Rutbuster: Breaking Rules and Selling Dreams.”

FGCU President Wilson G. Bradshaw expressed his appreciation saying, “It is gratifying to know that Ms. Daniels, an iconic figure in the arts community, is so supportive of public broadcasting and FGCU.  Her generous gift is yet another example of her commitment to the arts in Southwest Florida and beyond.”

In announcing the gift, WGCU General Manager Rick Johnson said, “We are grateful for Myra Daniels’ generous contribution.”

The gift “will endow one of the most significant aspects of our mission – to bring the arts to all in Southwest Florida,” Johnson said.

WGCU also received significant gifts from the estate of Patrick and Rosalie LaSala and the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation. To commemorate these generous gifts, the station has named its television wing the Patrick and Rosalie LaSala Television Wing and the radio studio is now the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation Radio Studio.

New York residents Patrick and Rosalie LaSala made Port Charlotte their home in 2002. Rosalie died in 2014 at age 93 and Patrick in 2015 at 95. According to Rick Johnson, “The generosity of the LaSala family will provide significant funding for local productions for years to come.  It is because of the passion and commitment of viewers like the LaSalas that we are able to provide the quality programming that epitomizes PBS and WGCU.”

According to family members, Patrick’s favorite shows on WGCU TV were its arts programs, especially the operas, as well as WGCU-produced programs that showcase Southwest Florida history.

Patrick was born in New York and moved to his ancestral home in the Basilicata area of Italy at age 6 when his mother died. He returned to the United States as a young man and settled in the New York City area, where he met and married Rosalie. After long, successful careers, Patrick retired from the New York City Transit Authority and Rosalie from Saks Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. They wintered in Port Charlotte for years, moving there full-time in 2002.

The Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation was established in 1991 by the grandchildren of Elizabeth B. McGraw. The Foundation’s donation of $260,000 to WGCU represents a commitment to the mission of the public broadcaster to inspire, inform, educate, engage and entertain.” The donation makes it possible for WGCU to expand its weekly local radio program Gulf Coast Live! to five days a week.       

Johnson applauded the foundation for its commitment to public radio, saying, “The strength of public radio comes from listeners who believe that fact-based news, civil discussion and fair and unbiased news that is accessible to all is essential to Southwest Floridians and all Americans. This gift, in honor of a gracious woman who believed in education and an informed citizenry, will help WGCU realize its mission to serve Southwest Florida.”

Affectionately known as “Bibbsie,” Elizabeth Bigdow McGraw was born in 1900 in Helena, Mont. She moved to New York as a young woman and later married Donald C. McGraw. The couple raised three children, while Donald served as president of McGraw-Hill during a period of diversification and expansion.

Bibbsie’s 15 grandchildren established the Foundation to honor her gracious spirit, which lives on in the organizations her foundation has helped from the arts to education to health and public broadcasting.

These gifts are all part of WGCU’s Fund Our Future fundraising initiative, which has raised $8.5 million of its $30 million goal. The initiative aims to raise the capital and endowment funds by 2024 to ensure the long-term future of public media in Southwest Florida.