Lyn Seymour, who worked in public television for more than 40 years, died March 31 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, Fla., after testing positive for the coronavirus. She was 68.
Her husband, Mike Seymour, said the couple self-quarantined at their home in Florida after returning from a trip to Egypt. He said his wife was in great health before she died.
Mike remains under quarantine, though he is asymptomatic and has not been tested for COVID-19.
“We were supposed to go to Israel and Jordan when the world shut down,” he said. “I was lucky to have found the love of my life. She will be with me forever in my heart.”
Lyn Seymour started her public media career in the 1970s with WEDU in Tampa and later joined WUFT in Gainesville, Fla., eventually becoming station manager. David Brugger, former president of America’s Public Television Stations, said he, Seymour and others were a part of the “Gainesville Mafia,” their nickname for WUFT alumnae who went on to lead other stations.
Seymour married her husband in 1994 after she moved to Dallas to work for KERA. While there, she produced many KERA programs, including New Tastes from Texas with Stephan Pyles, which focused on a famous local chef.
“Lyn was a beautiful soul — incredibly talented, generous, funny and kind,” said KERA Chief Content Officer and New Tastes EP Sylvia Komatsu in a news story.
After freelancing for CPB, Lyn worked for Cinar, later known as Cookie Jar Group, according to Dani Cook, director of station relations for WETA and the former director of fundraising programming at PBS.
At Cinar, Cook, Seymour, Lori Evans Lama and Kimberly Mullaney worked on promotion and station relations for PBS Kids shows Zoboomafoo and Caillou. Seymour also worked on Noddy’s Toyland Adventures for the BBC.
“I credit her for giving me my education in public broadcasting,” Cook told Current in an email. “In fact, it was because of her that I met my former boss at PBS, Sylvia Bennett. Even though Lyn and I didn’t work together directly at PBS, we remained very close and she continued to be my champion and confidante.”
When Seymour joined PBS in 2001, she served as a project executive for program services. She was promoted several times, eventually becoming a senior director for station strategy and support. She left PBS in 2016.
“Lyn was a true beacon of light with a passion for public broadcasting and people. Her contributions to the PBS family, including station relations, producer relations, and the staging of our Annual Meetings, were all infused with a belief in what we do and the differences we can make,” said PBS President Paula Kerger in a memo to station managers. “Lyn’s loss to the PBS family is indeed heartbreaking. Her spirit, her generosity, her sense of humor, and her devotion to our system are irreplaceable.”
Seymour’s husband and colleagues noted that Kerger said Seymour could be described as “an iron fist in a velvet glove.” Several said they took it as a reference to Seymour’s ability to be assertive but compassionate. She was calm and collected during high-pressure situations, such as managing producers who showcased content at PBS’ Annual Meetings.
“She expended a lot of energy at those Annual Meetings every year. It was all-consuming. But if you ever saw her … she always had things together,” said Sabrena Norris, director of programming and finance manager with The Programming Service and a former programming operations supervisor for WEDU.
BaBette Davidson, president of The Programming Service, said Seymour was a “torchbearer” and an especially good mentor to women in public media.
“There are so many women in the system, like me, who owe a debt of gratitude to Lyn,” Davidson said. “She would give you great advice [and] tell you what you needed to hear even if you didn’t want to hear it.”
Others at WEDU, including Claire O’Connor Solomon, SVP of development, and Jack Conely, SVP of operations, also said Lyn was a generous friend.
“She always seemed to come in and out of my life at unexpected times over the years and was always ‘mentoring’ me in a loving way,” Conley said in a memo provided to Current. “I believe the first book my son Nicholas ever got was from Lyn (and Mike). It was ‘One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish,’ by Dr. Seuss.”
“She was a breath of fresh air, witty with her comebacks and always so generous with her time. She offered thoughtful advice and was a true believer of PBS and everything it stands for,” said O’Connor Solomon in a statement.
WEDU President Paul Grove said the station created a video tribute for Seymour, who was also an on-air host. Station leaders saw her at a strategic planning retreat in January, where she appeared to be in great health. Grove said she was always willing to support the station.
“Her ability to exhibit both professionalism and kindness at the same time is rare. She always encouraged everyone around her and had a quality that made everything she produced seem effortless,” Grove said in a memo, noting Shark Mysteries, Unlocking the Secrets of the Gulf and John Ringling: Dreamer, Builder, Collector as marquee programs she produced.
Seymour was born Aug. 29, 1951, to Alex and Evelyn Ganz, who are both deceased. Her father worked in real estate, and her mother was a homemaker. Lyn attended Andrean High School, a Catholic institution in Merrillville, Ind. She later graduated from Indiana University.
Mike Seymour said his wife enjoyed travelling as a retiree and that they were planning trips to Barcelona, Croatia, France, Japan and Switzerland over the next couple of years. As a couple, they had already been to Africa, China, India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
“That trip to Africa was just life-changing. It was the most wonderful trip. We sat teary-eyed when we were leaving because we loved it so much,” Seymour said. “She was a great traveller.”
Lyn also loved sports, the arts and music, her husband said, noting that she saw the musical Hamilton three times and that she achieved her goal of attending all four major tennis tournaments.
Seymour is survived by her husband of more than 25 years; their son, Andrew W. Jones; and her brothers and stepbrothers Anthony, Gregory, Gary and Alan.