Walter Sheppard, a veteran public radio general manager who worked for the federal government’s Public Telecommunications Facilities Program for more than two decades as a federal program officer, died Oct. 19 at the age of 82.
Over the course of Sheppard’s career, which began in 1947, he held roles at several public radio stations across the country, including WITF in Harrisburg, Penn.; Boston’s WBUR; and the West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority (today known as West Virginia Public Broadcasting), where he served as deputy director in the 1980s and added more radio stations to the network.
He joined the National Telecommunications and Information Administration in 1990 to manage grant portfolios as part of PTFP. Sheppard managed several different regions of the program during his 21 years there, including the South and Northeast.
“He particularly was able to bring his knowledge and his experience to help first-time applicants who were not familiar with the federal bureaucratic maze,” said Bill Cooperman, former director of the PTFP and Sheppard’s longtime boss.
Through PTFP, many stations earned grants to update broadcasting equipment and continue serving listeners. Sheppard stayed with the program until it was discontinued in 2011 due to federal budget cutbacks. He remained at NTIA until just before his death, Cooperman said.
“Walter should be remembered as one of the people who worked behind the scenes to help make public media what it is today,” said Greg Schnirring, senior v.p. of radio at CPB.
The National Federation of Community Broadcasters presented Sheppard with its Bader Award at the 2013 Community Radio Conference in San Francisco. The award recognizes “individuals or groups whose work has advanced the vision and values of community radio,” according to NFCB.
“I’ve always liked the story of the little boy in England who, when asked which he liked best, television or radio, said, ‘Radio.’ Asked why, he said, ‘Because the pictures are better,’” Sheppard said as he accepted the NFCB award.