The passing of John Kiermaier, Former Head of WNET

August 4th, 2009

Inside Thirteen blogger:
Neal Shapiro, President and CEO

John Kiermaier, who was President and CEO of WNET during its early years, passed away last week.

John — or “Jack” as he was known to his friends — was at the helm of the station in a much different era, but he confronted many of the same challenges we face today — developing innovative new programming, raising funds in a competitive environment, and working against the odds to promote a genuine alternative to all the other media outlets out there.

John worked to build this public broadcaster in its formative years. Those were adventurous times in television — especially in the fledgling enterprise of public television. John helped show that television could be a force for education, culture, and thoughtful discussion of the affairs of the day — characteristics that continue to identify WNET’s contributions to this day.

History notes that John worked against tremendous odds to bring WNET through its birth pains and set it on the road to become media institution recognized worldwide for quality and integrity. In the years since John’s tenure here ended, all the wonderful programs that WNET has produced and aired owe a little bit of their life to John. If we continue to be pioneers — and we are — it’s because we have pioneer stock in our blood. We inherited it from intrepid souls like John.

John’s spirit lives on in our work. His dedication to WNET back then has given us all the opportunity to pursue our venerable media mission today.

Like John, I came here from network television. And certainly I am discovering some of the same kinds challenges and rewards that John encountered when he made the leap into that new, mission-driven phase of his career. I’m proud to be carrying on his legacy.

The staff and volunteers here — a few of whom surely remember John personally — extend our sympathies to John’s family.

John’s obituary was published in the New York Times yesterday.