Florida International University administrators officially christened their journalism school Friday as the Lee Caplin School of Journalism & Media in honor of the acclaimed film producer and opened a new theater that celebrates legendary soul singer and Miami native Sam Moore.
Caplin and his wife Gita Caplin, as well as Moore and his wife Joyce Moore, attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony, held at FIU’s Biscayne Bay campus in North Miami.
“Today we unveil and celebrate a very generous and transformative gift, one that will launch the future of 21st century journalism and media education right here at FIU,” FIU President Kenneth Jessell told the crowd of a few dozen at the event. “I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Caplin.”
Last November, the Caplins donated $10 million to the school, founded in 1991, as a naming gift. It became one of the largest donations ever given to a journalism program at a public university in Florida.
The Caplins had also given FIU an additional $1.2 million gift in May 2019 to create an Immersive Studio for Altered Reality, or iSTAR. The studio is located at the journalism and media school, and includes technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.
The Moores donated money for the “Sam Moore: The Legendary Soul Man Theatre” endowment this year, but declined to disclose how much.
Why Caplin picked FIU
Caplin, who has produced work like the Academy Award-nominated movie “Ali” and the HBO’s multi-Emmy award-winning television series “True Detective,” said he wanted to donate part of his fortune to help others who will pursue a similar career.
“I wanted to prepare a nest for the hatchlings,” he said. “You want everybody who’s on their way up and out to be up and at ‘em.”
He said he chose FIU mainly because of its inclusiveness, mentioning FIU’s large female and Hispanic population. As of fall 2021, 64% of all FIU students identified as Hispanic and about 58% as women.
“I’m very excited, and I’m very proud of him,” Gita Caplin said about her husband.
The $10 million donation will fund initiatives for students like the multilingual Caplin News and Caplin News en Español. The school’s flagship outlet, formerly called South Florida Media Network, now has news bureaus in Miami and Washington D.C.
At Caplin News, students produce at least three 15-minute broadcast shows every week and write news articles. They’ve recently covered major events like the arraignment of former President Donald Trump in downtown Miami in August and the arrival of Lionel Messi to the Inter Miami soccer team. On Friday, the school launched the mobile news app, Caplin News.
The school partners with other media organizations like the Miami Herald and Univision.
School officials will also use the money to pay faculty, buy the latest equipment and software, improve facilities and grant scholarships to students.
A tribute to the Soul Man himself
The Moores’ donation will maintain a 500-foot theater that features a 16-foot wide screen and 22 seats.
“All I can say is holy s--t,” Moore, 88, told the audience Friday, right after he saw the space that illustrates his legacy.
Moore, the only South Floridian ever inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, was surprised when he saw the multitude of photos of his decades-long career, including one in which he’s wearing a red suit and a button-up shirt with tiny records as he hugs actor Bruce Willis. Others show him posing with singer Lady Gaga, U.S. presidents and actor Eddie Murphy.
Moore, a South Florida native, grew up in Overtown and first began signing at the King of Hearts club in Liberty City.
He was a member of the soul and R&B duo Sam & Dave from 1961 to 1981. In addition to being a member of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he’s also a member of the Grammy Hall of Fame, for his famous song “Soul Man,” and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame.
Joyce Moore coordinated the art for the theater walls and hadn’t told her husband any details about the tribute ahead of time.
“I wanted to surprise him. I wanted him to have that treat of the first impression. But when we got there, I was surprised too. I was speechless. It took my breath away,” she said.
“I love it. I understand personally how important it is to preserve what artists like him have contributed,” she added, “and that starts here at home.”