Professor Garfield Foundation appoints Ball State professor as CEO

Topic: Teachers College

July 19, 2007

Lawrence Smith
Lawrence Smith
Ask Lawrence Smith to describe his new boss and he'll tell you that he's fat, lazy and cynical. Millions of fans adore him, so Smith forgives him.

An elementary education professor and former department chair at Ball State, Smith is now taking on the role of CEO of the Professor Garfield Foundation (PGF).

PGF is a nonprofit joint venture between Paws, Inc., owned by Garfield creator Jim Davis, and Ball State, and its nationally recognized Teachers College, which also happens to be Davis' alma mater. The foundation was established by a team of educators and business executives with the goal of improving child literacy.

"Children today are as comfortable with a mouse in their hand as we were with a pencil," said Smith. "Our goal is to help motivate kids to learn fundamental reading skills by giving them an educationally sound interactive experience in a fun and safe environment."

The groundwork for the foundation was established with the launch of www.professorgarfield.org, a free "edutainment" Web site for kids created in 2005. It includes a treasure trove of educational content for pre-school through eighth grade students as well as a "Teacher's Lounge," which provides additional classroom material and activities that can be downloaded. PGF hopes to expand on its successful Web site and become an innovative leader in delivering free digital content to kids around the world.     

"I have long been a fan of reaching kids through reading and writing — after all, that's what I do for a living," said Davis. "With the help of a furry feline and Ball State, we are now able to add a digital component to our quest of exposing millions of children to the world of reading and language."

About Paws, Inc.

Cartoonist Jim Davis' company, Paws, Inc., located near Muncie, Ind., was founded in 1981 to handle the creative end of the Garfield licensing business.

Today, Paws is the sole owner of all copyrights and trademarks for the Garfield property, and controls not only the creative angle of the fat cat's flourishing empire, but also the licensing, marketing and brand management of Garfield and the Garfield characters.

About Garfield

Garfield was born on the comics pages on June 19, 1978. The mastermind of cartoonist Jim Davis, Garfield is a humorous strip centered on the lives of a fat, lazy, cynical orange cat who loves lasagna, coffee and his remote control; his owner, the long-suffering Jon Arbuckle; and Odie, a sweet but dumb dog. Garfield was introduced to the world in just 41 newspapers but quickly became the fastest growing and most widely syndicated comic strip ever. Today, the strip appears in more than 2,570 newspapers and is read daily by 263 million people around the globe. The success of the comic strip spawned a popular animated TV show, "Garfield & Friends," which appeared on CBS-TV from 1988 to 1995, and is currently in worldwide syndication.

Additionally, Garfield has starred in two feature films (Twentieth Century Fox) and three all-new fully computer-animated films for DVD distribution are in the works. Garfield also takes center stage on his entertainment Web site, www.garfield.com, and as his newest alter-ego, Professor Garfield, at www.professorgarfield.org.

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