Dorothy Peterson, CPB program officer, dies at 79

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Dorothy Peterson, a program officer for CPB and the National Endowment for the Humanities and a veteran pubTV producer who worked at Kentucky ETV and Maryland Public Television, died May 9 in Gainesville, Fla. She was 79.

Peterson joined CPB in the mid-1990s after beginning her career as a production assistant in Kentucky and later working as a producer for A.M. Weather, MPT’s daily national weather series. At CPB, her knowledge of local and national programming led to work on several big pubTV projects, including the Center for New American Media’s four-part politics series Vote for Me and the films Moms and People Like Us, among others.

Peterson “understood every aspect of programming and production and also outreach and education,” said Peggy O’Brien, a former colleague at CPB. “She could see the whole big picture and how well those things fit together, and she could articulate that in a very clear, wonderful way.”

She was also a mentor to younger CPB staffers, particularly women, and often hosted social gatherings at her home in Washington, D.C., O’Brien recalled.

“She was irreverent and smart and candid and just a wonderful person to work with,” she said.

“She had an unerring feel for good talent and good stories,” wrote another colleague, Louis Barbash, in an email. “And she knew how to nurture them both into becoming good PTV programming.  She was a wonderful colleague and a precious and irreplaceable friend.”

Before CPB, Peterson also worked as an independent documentary filmmaker. In the early 2000s, she left CPB to become a program officer with the NEH.

Peterson is survived by her son John Peterson and brother William Brockett. Her family asks that donations be made to one of five organizations: the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Public Architecture, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or the Hospice of Gainesville, Fla.

Three memorials will be held for Peterson in Irish-wake style in Gainesville; Lexington, Ky.; and Washington, D.C. Those interested in attending should contact Susan Petroff at

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