Home A project of States Newsroom
Brief
UNK’s new sorority hall to be named after pioneering journalist alumna

Share

UNK’s new sorority hall to be named after pioneering journalist alumna

Dec 08, 2023 | 6:53 pm ET
By Cindy Gonzalez
Share
UNK’s new sorority hall to be named after pioneering journalist alumna
Description
Bess Furman Armstrong, right, is pictured with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, center, and fellow reporters during a 1934 trip to Puerto Rico. A UNK sorority residence hall is to be named after Furman Armstrong. She is said to have developed a lasting friendship with Eleanor Roosevelt while covering politics in Washington D.C. (National Archives)

OMAHA — A new 140-bed sorority hall at the University of Nebraska at Kearney will carry the name of an alumna whose accomplished journalism career began by learning to set type as a kid at a Danbury newspaper.

UNK’s new sorority hall to be named after pioneering journalist alumna
Bess Furman Armstrong with her autobiography, “Washington By-Line” (Courtesy of UNK)

Bess Furman Armstrong was a native of the Nebraska village of Danbury, whose current population is less than 100. Her dad was the publisher, and she helped around the local newsroom.

Furman Armstrong attended what then was called the Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney, where she served as the first woman editor of The Antelope student newspaper before graduating in 1918.

After a stint as a teacher, she got a job with a Nebraska newspaper and her coverage of a presidential candidate’s campaign stop in Omaha sent her professional journey soaring to Washington, D.C. 

A UNK media release said that among other feats, Furman Armstrong became the first female reporter regularly assigned by a press association to cover the U.S. House of Representatives. She covered the White House during five presidential administrations, starting in 1929 as a reporter for the Associated Press and later as a correspondent for The New York Times. 

Now under construction, the Bess Furman Armstrong Hall is scheduled to open in January as sorority housing.

“I am happy that the building will be named after a strong, accomplished woman, like the women who will live there,” UNK student body president Temo Molina recently told the University of Nebraska Board of Regents.

The dedication of the 41,000-square-foot hall has the support of the Regents, NU President Ted Carter and UNK Chancellor Doug Kristensen.

UNK’s new sorority hall to be named after pioneering journalist alumna
UNK’s new sorority housing will be known as Bess Furman Armstrong Hall, honoring a Nebraska State Normal School at Kearney graduate and pioneering woman journalist. (Courtesy of Erika Pritchard, UNK Communications)

 

 

“Bess’ legacy is a testament to the power of education and the impact one individual can have on our nation and world,” Kristensen said. “We are reminded of the vital role our institution plays in shaping the leaders of tomorrow and the trail Bess charted for future generations of UNK students.”

The media release recounted other career highlights:

In 1961, Furman Armstrong joined the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare as a public affairs assistant. The next year she became head of the department’s press information division, making her the first woman to hold a top public affairs position with a cabinet agency. 

During World War II, Furman Armstrong worked for the Office of War Information. She is the author of a couple of books, including her autobiography, “Washington By-Line.”

She served as president of the Women’s National Press Club in 1946 and was inducted into the Nebraska Journalism Hall of Fame in 1975, six years after her death.

The Bess Furman Armstrong Hall, which is part of a broader $32.6 million housing replacement project at UNK, is to feature lounges and study areas for each Panhellenic sorority (Alpha Omicron Pi, Alpha Phi, Alpha Xi Delta and Gamma Phi Beta). 

The structure will include chapter rooms and a shared lounge for UNK’s multicultural chapters, giving them a permanent on-campus home for the first time.