Jeanne Brodeur, 58, pioneering fundraiser

Jeanne BrodeurFrom QuickNooz

Deepest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of former ’GBHer Jeanne Brodeur, who passed away Mon, 10/19 in California, where she served as VP for Development at the Aquarium of the Pacific.

Jeanne started at WGBH in the 1970s right out of college, and worked in the Development department until 1980. She was an enthusiastic fundraiser who helped pioneer the idea of giving premiums to donors – including WGBH golf umbrellas in the mid ’70s that dotted the Boston metro area for years to come.

PBS stations everywhere followed WGBH’s fundraising lead, thanks in large part to Jeanne’s contributions.

No flowers, please, but those wishing to make a contribution in Jeanne’s honor may do so to Emerson College, Jeanne Brodeur Scholarship, 120 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116-4624.

Collective Memories

From Lo Hartnett — 10/19/2009

A good friend and colleague is gone, but we are very fortunate to have known her – learned from her, and laughed with her…a LOT.

Jeanne’s GBH tenure was in the 70’s thru 1980 in the Development Department. Jeanne was VP Development for the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA.

Jeanne with John Kerr, Amy Meyers, myself, Marilyn Bernardo, Helen Fox, Jo Madden, and others learned our fund raising skill through trial and error. We shared our successes with stations around the country — a leadership trend in fund raising that WGBH continues today.

Those were fun times when we were learning our fund raising craft. I remember when Jeanne had an umbrella salesman come to the station (1974-75?). She was positive that if we offered a big golf umbrella for a contribution, viewers would contribute. As was the usually the case, Jeanne was spot on. WGBH golf umbrellas could be seen all over the Boston metro area while stations around the country adopted this success. And then came the tote bags…..

There are so many stories of those early days when Jeanne or John brought an idea home from a meeting and asked Amy, Me, Marilyn, and Helen Fox if it could be done. Jeanne’s ‘can do’ attitude was most infectious as most of you know. Together we built a solid fund raising program on the foundation Jeanne helped pour at ‘GBH and throughout the PBS system.

From Jim Lewis — 10/19/2009

Jeanne and Amy were two of my early mentors. Jeanne and I shared lots of laughs, as Mike Greenwald will well remember. The world is a bit less brighter this morning.

From John Kerr — 10/19/2009

I received the sad news from all of you simultaneously as I opened my laptop on this rainy afternoon. I’m parked along a narrow roadway way up in the remote northeast corner of Yellowstone National Park, where I’m winding up my fifth post-’GBH retirement year as a ranger and living my dream. It’s raining hard.

And there, right there above the sage against Specimen Butte, is an enormous, multi-color, complete rainbow.

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Jeanne put it there. That would be like her.

Most of those in public broadcasting — and especially at WGBH — stand on Jeanne’s shoulders. She was the bedrock, the doer, the grit, the inspiration, the energy, the smile, the never-say-no person who made a lot of it happen.

Travel well, Jeanne, and thank you for everything.

I’m pretty sure that you’re already at work reorganizing Heaven and putting together a Development Plan.

From Amy Meyers — 10/20/2009

Jeanne and I first met at WGBH/Channel 2, public television (and WGBH/FM public radio) in Boston. John Kerr was our boss. This was Jeanne’s first job out of college. When President Nixon vetoed the federal funding bill to support public broadcasting in the winter of 1973, public television stations went on the air to solicit support from viewers. While some stations had already dabbled in on-air fundraising, this was really the start of all those pledge drives with which we’re now all too familiar.

Jeanne’s training at Emerson and innate confidence immediately made her a role model and mentor for all who were suddenly thrust in front of the camera to encourage viewers to pay for something they could get for free. I remember marveling at her ease when she’d return from a conference and tell me that during a visit to the public TV station where the conference was being held, she immediately went on air and started “pitching.” There she was, already leading and teaching.

From the The Pacific Shores Hematology-Oncology Foundation

Jeanne Brodeur: Battling Cancer Woman to Woman

Jeanne Brodeur

“The Woman to Woman Campaign provides deserving and financially needy women undergoing cancer treatment with access to tests, procedures, investigational drugs, and other life-saving medical expenses that can extend their lives and increase their quality of life.”


John Kerr featured in national AP story

John Kerr

Seasonal ranger John Kerr poses in front of the wilds Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2007, in Yellowstone National Park, Wyo. Kerr, 69, retired as the public face of Boston public TV station WGBH and is now a park ranger. (AP Photo by Douglas C. Pizac)

More Baby Boomers Head to Mountain West

By MEAD GRUVER (The Associated Press)

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo.  — John Kerr wasn’t dreaming of palm trees and balmy winters when he retired from WGBH, the Boston public TV station known for producing such hits as “Antiques Roadshow.” His thoughts had gone West.

The 69-year-old put on a green uniform and Smokey Bear hat and became a seasonal ranger in Yellowstone National Park, where snow can fall every month of the year, including July.

“That’s why they have wood stoves and furnaces,” Kerr said. “Warm weather isn’t the issue for me. It’s keeping vital and interested and involved.”

Demographers say thousands of people like Kerr are heading to the Rocky Mountain West in their later years. Forget the warmth of Florida and Arizona. Baby boomers, in particular, are gravitating toward the peaks and sagebrush basins of Wyoming and Montana, promising to turn these states from relatively young into two of the nation’s oldest.

They’re drawn by low crime, fresh air, little traffic and abundant outdoor activities, said Larry Swanson, an economist and director of the Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Missoula, Mont.

Although people of all ages like those things, older people tend to be flexible enough in their careers, families and finances to finally kick up their boots on a porch rail, he said.

“If you’re 25, you say, ‘I’d like to live here, but maybe someday in the future,”’ Swanson said. “But if you’re 45 or 55, the future is now.”

The populations of Montana and Wyoming are not very old. In 2000, Montana ranked 18th and Wyoming 43rd for the relative size of their 65-and-over populations. But by 2030, the Census Bureau predicts Montana will rank fifth and Wyoming third in the nation for their over-65 populations.

Florida is expected to remain on top, though Wyoming and Montana will both likely be a good deal older than Arizona — even as the Grand Canyon State moves up from 22nd to 14th.

The two states are not seeking out older people; they are being discovered.

Laurie Lyman, 55, was an elementary school teacher in San Diego when she began traveling to Yellowstone on long trips to watch wolves. In 2005, she decided it was time to get as close to the wolves as she could.

“I said to my husband, ‘You know what? Life’s too short. I’m going,”’ she said, adding that many people like her are snapping up property around Yellowstone.

Officials with the two states are preparing for the influx. This year, Montana established a trust fund so the state’s older population will have access to health care and other essential services, even in rural areas.

“We’ve done projections of stuff and seeing our elderly population doubling in the next 10 to 15 years,” said Charlie Rehbein, chief of the Montana Aging Services Bureau. “I think it’s going to have a tremendous impact.”

One challenge is that the two states already have very low unemployment, around 3 percent, and could face a real labor crunch when the oldest baby boomers hit 65 in 2011.

“We haven’t seen anything yet, because the exodus has not really begun out of the work force,” said Swanson, the economist. “That’s going to begin in two or three years.”

Rather than struggle with a labor shortage, Wyoming officials hope to get older people to stay in the workplace and persuade business owners to hire older workers, said Rob Black, policy analyst for Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal.

Swanson said most of the baby boomers moving in plan to work. Kerr, for example, said he would continue working — for now.

“My life hasn’t slowed down,” he said. “I’ve found a lot of sustenance — spiritual sustenance, I suppose — in the natural world. I think it helps put our fast-paced world into balance.”

Working was what Lee and Beth Dix had in mind in 1999 when they began thinking about leaving Washington, D.C., where he was a systems analyst for IBM Corp. and she was a corporate planner for Fairchild Corp.

Lee Dix, 62, said the couple researched dozens of communities in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, then flew to Denver and started driving. The couple ended up in Cheyenne, the first overnight stop on their trip.

Lee Dix said the couple did not even consider Florida or Arizona after sweltering in Washington.

“Except for the wind here, this is a pretty ideal place for us,” he said.

The MIT Professors (late 1950s)

From Don Hallock — 2000

Though this story isn’t strictly about television, it was making the rounds of MIT during the late ’50s, and found its way into the studio at 84 Mass. Ave. where I heard it.

Our little tale concerns the devastatingly brilliant, and notoriously vague, Professor Norbert Wiener. Author of the landmark volume "Cybernetics: or, Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine," he was known as the "father of cybernetics."

Dr. Wiener had, I believe, appeared on MIT Science Reporter at least once, when computing (such as it was in those days) was being discussed. His appearance was much what you might expect of the creator of computer theory. A decidedly portly, middle sized man whose clothes fit like a tent, the professor was chronically disheveled, his round face framed with wild gray hair. And he peered out at an apparently strange world through round glasses with lenses about one-half inch thick.

Dr. Wiener could often be seen chewing on a candy bar and navigating the sidewalk just outside the WGBH building, frequenting, as he did, the Tech Pharmacy on the first floor.

One mid-day, the good professor was making his way along Mass. Ave., approaching Storrow Drive and the Charles River Bridge. He paused and turned when he heard one of his students call out loudly from behind him, "Professor Wiener….Oh, Professor Wiener."

"Yes, young man?" Wiener replied as the breathless student caught up with him.

"Professor Wiener," the student gasped, "Could you please tell me what grade I got on the exam you gave on Monday?"

Wiener squinted, perplexed, and said, "I don’t keep track of such things, young man. You’ll have to go to my office and inquire with my secretary. She keeps records of all the test scores."

"Oh, I’m sorry, sir," the student replied. "I’ll go right away and see your secretary."

The student headed toward MIT, and Dr. Wiener continued on his way. A moment later, however, the student stopped and turned when he heard from behind him, "Young man, young man!"

The student hastily returned to Dr. Wiener, and was asked, "Young man….when you stopped me, in what direction was I walking?"

Nonplused, the student replied, "That way, professor" (pointing away from WGBH and the Tech Pharmacy).

“Oh,” Wiener mused to himself as he resumed his walk. “Then I’ve had lunch."

From John Kerr

Who was the MIT professor who used to teach a Shakespeare course in the ’round’ in Studio A at 84 Mass Ave?

Remember the moment when he was supposed to cross to the pedestal with the skull on it and say "Alas, poor Yorick…" but we crewies had forgotten to put the skull on the pedestal.

So I slowed my trucking of the camera while Al Hinderstein raced to the prop room, fetched the skull, and did this third-base slide with it … Just as we revealed it on-camera …

From Don Hallock

Remember Professor Edwin G. Boring who used to do a local program on psychology using only a swivel chair and a wall-mounted chart, who was also miked with one of those old cabled lavaliers, who had turned from camera to chart so many times during one show that he wrapped the mic cord round and round the chair pedestal, and who, when he tried to rise (in full ‘lecture’ mode) to refer to something higher up, nearly strangled himself to death … live!

Always Charitable, Nancy England Succumbs to Cancer at 57

I want to let you know that a former ‘GBHer, Nancy England, who worked there in the ’70s in development with Sam Tyler, John Carver, and John Kerr, died last week of cancer.

Nancy was close to Christy Moore Millet, Lisa Getman Ellis, Jo Madden, and several others from that period. Christy and I visited her the week before she died. She attended the re-union several years ago.

John Kerr: Stalwart at WGBH

Sam Allis, The Boston Globe —  4/11/2004

You know his face, if not his name, if you’ve ever channel-surfed through WGBH-TV during one of its fund-raising drives. He’s the one with glasses and beefy build of a lineman who stands square in front of the camera, guileless and earnest, trolling for dollars between cuts of a Roy Orbison concert tape that just won’t go away at money time.

(The Orbison show, including Springsteen, Tom Waits, and Elvis Costello, is great the first 17 times but by the 63d, it’s just plain not. Public television people: Feel our pain.)

The man has done this over and over and over and over and over. By the time he retired a few weeks ago after 32 years at the station, John Kerr was its most visible face, and thus the most recognizable face of public television in town.

He gets noticed everywhere he goes. Once, a man sitting next to him on a flight to Boston handed Kerr a 10-dollar bill and said thanks during the descent to Logan.

If he never tires of the recognition, he did get bored pleading for the kindness of strangers. Hell, a Labrador retriever would. “It is boring,” says Kerr. “But the fear factor never goes away. You never know what’s going to happen when you’re live.”

Take the time the set collapsed around him as he was interviewing Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler. Or the one when he was talking to a local business titan who faced the wrong way for the cameras. When a technician crawled onstage and put his hand on the man’s calf to redirect him, he screamed.

And there is always the 4-minute on-air segment he had to stretch to 28 minutes because of a technical glitch. He later learned that his soliloquy had bested Masterpiece Theatre in the ratings.

Kerr bets he has logged more on-air television time over his career than anyone else in Boston. He notched a routine 20.5 hours over the two weeks of on-air trolling for dollars last December and close to 50 minutes during his final gig on March 20. (The station totals 274 hours of on-air palaver a year, including its auction.)

For much of his run at WGBH-TV (Channel 2), Kerr was in charge of on-air fund-raising, which, I’m sad to report, remains the most effective means of attracting new members for public broadcasting of all stripes. And they matter, given that WGBH loses about 40,000 of its 200,000 members every year, many of whom migrate back.

He leaves with no successor. His job has been eliminated and the plan now is to train a broad bench of people to spread the on-air duties. Two volunteers, Cindy Bailen and Anne Williams, are already familiar faces.

In the WGBH pantheon of faces, there was David Ives and then everyone else. Ives, its second president, was all Adam’s apple and bow tie, drawn in the Brahmin tradition to self-parody for a greater good. (He once rode a circus elephant telling viewers he’d do anything for money for Channel 2.)

Current president Henry Becton, in contrast, chose a low profile, which kept Kerr the front man for years. He knew that he could never ape Ives and opted for another strategy: “I decided to be constant.” No flare, no glare.

Kerr, an irritatingly young-looking 65, knows how quaint his on-air spiel sounds these days given the changes in fund-raising. (Consider the $40 million that Howard Dean raised on the Internet.) “I’m now an artifact,” he says. “I don’t know how to fund-raise on the Net. The next generation at ‘GBH will invent new ways to fund-raise.”

The man began there as an intern in 1960, a mere five years after the place went on the air. He left to make money selling stocks and returned for good in 1972. Kerr was with it through the storied years of chaos and invention and intimacy. (While manning the station switchboard in 1960, he fielded a call from an older woman with bad hearing who asked WGBH to turn up the volume.)

With him goes a huge piece of institutional memory. Through the mid-’70s, WGBH would mail 2-inch tapes of its shows to other public broadcasting stations around the country. This was called “bicycling.” Later, Kerr and his counterparts from what he calls the other “producing” public stations — San Francisco, New York, and Pittsburgh — would hop on planes and proselytize the virtues of on-air fund-raising. In Philadelphia, the quartet went on the air on behalf of the local public station there.

In the early days, he would take the outgoing station mail to the Central Square post office on his way home at night, and deliver some of the original WGBH umbrellas, now museum pieces, given out for $30 donations during fund-raising drives. He remembers when, pre-ZIP code, contributors were instructed to send their checks to WGBH, Cambridge 42. He wrote fund-raising copy for everyone from actress Carol Channing to mime Marcel Marceau.

We need not romanticize fund-raising. It remains a root canal of a thing. The question remains why we can put a man on the moon but not devise a palatable money pitch. Another is how an intelligent person could ask for dough all those years like a riff from “Groundhog Day” without being committed. Never mind. No one in these parts had more fun doing the right thing than John Kerr. Over and over and over.

The Party XVIII

248. Mai Cramer with Ron Della Chiesa.

249. Olivia Tappan, Russ Morash and Susie Doroney.

250. Gordy Mehlman and John McKnight.

251. Linda Morgenroth, Wendy Davidson and Moon Nimon.

252. Dave Coveney and Paula Apsell.

253. Ron Blau and Jean Wardle.

254. Susan Presson and Ashton Peery.

255. Henry Becton and Susan Presson

256. Bill Charrette, Paul Souza and Henry Becton.

257. John Kerr, Jim Donahue, Ron Della Chiesa, Mike Goldberg and Judy Osborne.

All photos this page: Jeffrey Dunn

The Party III


Chris Pullman and Tom Sumida.


Tom Sumida, Chris Pullman, Paul Souza and Paul Solman.


Tom Sumida, Chris Pullman, Paul Souza, Doug Scott and Jeff Dunn.


Doug Scott and Paul Souza.


John Kerr, Mary Meadows, Hillary Kimmel and John Carver.


Debbie Dorsey and Michael Ambrosino.


David Atwood and Dick Heller.


Henry Becton, Chris Sarson and Fred Barzyk.

All photos this page: Jeffrey Dunn