Pat Fitzgerald, g.m. of WBGU-TV in Bowling Green, Ohio, for more than two decades, died Oct. 30 of a stroke in his home. He was 69.
Fitzgerald was known among colleagues as a strong advocate for educational television and community service. “He was in essence my mentor, my education,” said Tony Short, g.m. of production, engineering and educational services at WBGU and one of two managers who took over Fitzgerald’s duties at the station after his 2010 retirement. “What I know about public broadcasting, I learned from Pat Fitzgerald. . . This is hitting us real hard. This is sort of a shock.”
Fitzgerald, known as “Fitz” to his colleagues, joined WBGU in 1973 as the station’s director of learning services and became g.m. in 1989. In 2009 he oversaw the station’s conversion to digital transmission.
He helped found the Small Station Association and served two terms on the PBS Board of Directors from 1999 to 2005, often providing the perspective of a manager of a small-market station.
“A lot of people in the system really looked to him for advice and counsel as to how national policies would affect smaller, more rural stations,” said Peter Morrill, former g.m. of Idaho Public Television, who started in pubTV in 1974 under Fitzgerald at WBGU. “He was just known throughout the system as a no-drama kind of guy. He was a good listener and he made wise, level-headed decisions, and that’s a rare quality, not only at a small station but at a big station.”
Fitzgerald was a fixture in northwest Ohio outside of the station as well, having served on the Bowling Green planning commission and helping to coordinate an annual Toledo-area women’s golf tournament, Short said.
“Beyond the job, he had a total commitment to his community and how he could make his community better than he left it,” Short said. “He lived what he preached.”