Paul Steen, leader of KPBS in San Diego for 26 years, dies at 82

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Steen, who oversaw both the radio and television stations from 1974-92, pitches for contributions on the set of a KPBS pledge drive. (Photo: KPBS)

Steen, who oversaw both KPBS’s radio and television stations from 1974-92, pitches for contributions on the set of a KPBS pledge drive. (Photo: KPBS)

Paul Steen, the longest-serving general manager in the history of dual licensee KPBS in San Diego, died Dec. 17. He was 82.

Steen began his tenure as director of operations when KPBS-TV signed on in 1967. By 1974 he rose to g.m., a post he held until his retirement in 1992. He was the third g.m. in KPBS’s history.

KPBS G.M. Tom Karlo, right, inducts Steen into the KPBS Hall of Fame in 2010. (Photo: KPBS)

KPBS GM Tom Karlo, right, inducts Steen into the KPBS Hall of Fame in 2010. (Photo: KPBS)

Steen is credited with the decision in 1990 to add news to KPBS-FM’s classical format. He also led the “Campaign to Make a Difference” in the early 1990s, which funded the current KPBS building on the campus of licensee San Diego State University.

“Paul Steen led KPBS during its most formative years,” said Tom Karlo, KPBS g.m., in a statement. “Paul came to KPBS at the birth of our television station and then as general manager was responsible for creating the KPBS TV Auction. Our TV auction was huge part of who KPBS was during the ’70s and ’80s and allowed us to connect with our audiences in a fun way.”

Other local productions he backed include That’s 30, a television public affairs program with journalist Gloria Penner in 1977; the weekday local radio news show Contact 89 in 1981; and the innovative radio show Calling Moscow in 1988, which gave callers across the nation a chance to pose questions to Soviet guests at Radio Moscow.

Steen was a charter member of KPBS’s Hall of Fame in 2010. He and his wife Judy continued to support the station as Producers Club Members, attending events throughout the year.

Other survivors include son Michael of Seattle; daughter Melanie Billingsley of Del Cerro, Calif.; two stepsons, Tim Schwuchow of Ramona, Calif., and Matthew Schwuchow of Jamul, Calif.; a stepdaughter, Ann Campbell of Temecula, Calif.; three brothers, Luther in Pennsylvania, and David and Richard, both in Washington; a sister, Ruth DeFor in Minnesota; and seven grandchildren.

Services are pending. The family suggests donations to KPBS.

Correction: An earlier version of this post mistakenly said KPBS-FM switched from classical to news in 1990. The station added news to its format that year and became all-news in 2010.