Frank Family Vineyards’ Rich and Leslie Frank donate $7.5 Million to University of Illinois’ College of Media

The center will have a transformative impact on students at the University of Illinois and will define future excellence, particularly in journalism programs

(October 12, 2020; Calistoga, CA.)—Rich and Leslie Frank, owners of Napa Valley’s Frank Family Vineyards, announced today that they have donated $7.5 million to The College of Media at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where Rich Frank is an alumnus. The gift, the largest in the college’s history, will establish the Richard and Leslie Frank Center for Leadership and Innovation in Media.

“Now more than ever there is a critical need for good, solid, objective journalism in this country,” said Rich and Leslie Frank. “We are encouraged our contribution will help create the highest level of learning for the next generation of journalists and that we are able to play a part in elevating the stature of the program at Illinois, making it a top destination for students and faculty.”

Rich Frank, former president of Disney Studios, and Leslie (Miller) Frank, an Emmy-award winning broadcast journalist, both now vintners and hospitality leaders in Napa Valley, wanted to make an investment in the University of Illinois that would have an impact for generations.

The Richard and Leslie Frank Center at Illinois will develop students who are leaders in their professions by offering access to a diverse group of experts and practitioners through residencies and speaker series, and by supporting outside learning opportunities such as professional immersion experiences, conference participation, and internships. A portion of the Frank’s gift will be used to create a state-of-the-art broadcast facility, and additionally to create two classrooms to accommodate the use of new technologies, and to offer space for media editing and production.

“The opportunity this gift provides to our students who are pursuing careers in media is phenomenal,” said Illinois Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “The passion Rich has for his alma mater and his vast industry experience have combined perfectly with Leslie’s broadcast news experience to create a center that will become the perfect ecosystem for budding journalists and media professionals at Illinois.”

“The Richard and Leslie Frank Center will have a transformational impact on students and will define Illinois’ excellence in media fields from this point forward, said Tracy Sulkin, dean of the College. “This gift is a game-changer for the College of Media,” she added. “The upgrades to instructional facilities and the programming provided will ensure that we continue to train innovative and ethical professionals who will lead the way in their chosen fields, attract and retain the very best faculty to the Department of Journalism, and enhance our opportunities to engage with the public on pressing issues. We cannot thank the Franks enough for their generosity and commitment to shaping future generations of journalists and media professionals.”

Rich Frank, who received his bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Illinois, is no stranger to media. He began his career at the advertising agency BBDO in New York City before moving to Los Angeles to work as a sales Manager at KTLA. He then served as President of Chris- Craft Broadcasting. In 1977 he became President of Paramount Television Group, overseeing the creation and production of such shows as Taxi, Family Ties and Cheers as well as the creation of the groundbreaking entertainment news show, Entertainment Tonight. In 1985 he became President of Disney Studios. Under his leadership, the studio created iconic sitcoms such as The Golden Girls and Home Improvement, and films including Good Morning Vietnam, Dead Poets Society and The Lion King. He also oversaw the launch of the Disney Channel. Rich served three terms as President of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. In 2007, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recognized him with the prestigious Syd Cassyd Founder’s Award. In 2011, Rich received an honorary doctorate from the American Film Institute where he is currently a Vice Chairman on the AFI’s Board of Directors. Rich previously served on the board of the Motion Picture Association of America. His archival interview with the Television Academy provides a fascinating historical perspective of the evolution of modern television:


Born in Hamilton, Ontario, Leslie (Miller) began her career in Canada before crossing the border to work in some of the largest television markets in the United States. She spent more than 25 years covering many major stories including the 9/11 attacks where she reported live from ground zero in New York City, as well as from the scene of the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and inside the courtroom at the Michael Jackson trial. Leslie spent the last nine years of her TV news career reporting and anchoring at the number one rated station, KABC in Los Angeles, where she covered politics, crime, weather calamities, as well as interviewing some of the biggest stars in Hollywood on the red carpet. Prior to Los Angeles, Leslie was the main anchor at KCPQ in Seattle, where she took the 10 pm newscast to number one in its time slot and clinched an Emmy for outstanding news anchor.


Rich and Leslie return to the Illinois campus frequently, speaking with students and faculty in both the College of Media and the Gies College of Business and advising journalism students on their television news broadcasts and resume videos.


About Frank Family Vineyards

Frank Family Vineyards was founded in 1992 by former Disney Studios president Rich Frank. First constructed as the Historic Larkmead Winery in 1884, the stone building on property is the third oldest in Napa and appears on the national Register of Historical Places. Today, Frank Family owns over 380 acres of vineyards in the Napa Valley, and in 2015 received Napa Green certifications for both the land and winery. Frank Family’s reputation for having the friendliest hospitality in Napa Valley has fans flocking to the tasting room on Larkmead Lane, which was named “Best Napa Winery” by the Bay Area A-List for eight years in a row, making it one of the most popular tasting rooms in wine country. The Patriarch was recently ranked #5 in California Cabernet by Vivino and the 2016 Lewis Vineyard Chardonnay Reserve as one of the Top 30 White Wines of 2020 and awarded it the #2 best Chardonnay in Napa for 2020. Frank Family’s Napa Valley Chardonnay ($38), Pinot Noir ($38), Zinfandel ($38) and Cabernet Sauvignon ($58) are distributed nationally.

For more information about Frank Family Vineyards, please visit

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