Thursday, October 11, 2007

An unforgettable character

I've met many interesting people in my career. One of the most interesting was recently introduced to the rest of the world on Ken Burns' new documentary The War (re-airing on MPT Wednesdays through Nov. 7th at 9 p.m.).

Burns' mutlipart series follows the movements of a young ambulance driver in the American Field Service during World War II. This driver was Ward Chamberlin. I had the privilege to meet and work with Ward about six years ago. He was 80 at the time, and I was impressed with his energy and dynamic thought process. I knew very little about Ward’s background at that time. At 80 years old, he was a full-time employee of WNET, and I knew that he had been with WETA at some time in the past.

As I worked with Ward and got to know him better, I was awed by his ability to set a pace that would kill many younger men. I also began to learn a little about his background. Ward was the very first employee of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting , became president of WETA and was instrumental in bringing Ken Burns to public television. After WETA, he joined WNET and worked with them until 2002.

As described in The War, Ward was a Princeton student when WWII started. He attempted to enlist in the U.S. military, but was turned down due to an eye problem from a childhood disease. He then joined the American Field Service and became an ambulance driver serving in North Africa and Europe. The documentary depicts some of his experiences in Italy.

Ward is a warm, energetic, creative and caring person. I am delighted that I have had the opportunity to know him. He is still working in the public television industry. If you have a chance to speak with him, by all means do so. Now's the perfect time to watch the Burns film again and look closely at this man who has given so much to his country and public television.

Larry Unger
Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer

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