Who’s on the Public Media Honor Roll for 2021?

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Every year as part of our donor campaign, we invite readers to nominate someone to the Public Media Honor Roll. For a donation of $100 or more, you can honor a mentor, a peer, volunteer or a public media pioneer ­— someone who made a difference to you or to the field of public media. This year, we received 41 nominations. This column tells you not only who was named but why. Read the praise and get all the feels and good vibes that come with heartfelt appreciation.

The late Thurston Briscoe was named to the Honor Roll by Israel Smith, who called Briscoe “a steady voice of encouragement for generations of public media makers, programmers and artists across the globe. His smile could light up your world, and his knowledge and creativity [were] boundless.”

Anita Bugg of Nashville Public Radio was named by John Barth, who wrote that she has an “insane work ethic,” the “highest integrity,” and is “someone who works hard at listening and getting things right.”

Phil Hutcheson of Alabama Public TV named his predecessor Roy Clem, who “worked tirelessly to restore APT’s state funding as well as to restore employee morale.” Roy retired in 2019, “leaving APT in good financial shape with a dedicated group of employees proud to be part of the APT family.”

Terry Clifford and Tom Thomas of SRG were named by Erin Moran, who wanted “to honor the many ways over the many years that they have helped guide, structure, influence and strengthen public media.”

The late Mary Cay Corr was named by her former PBS North Carolina colleague Rebekah Radisch, who said Corr “was an integral part of our educational outreach division, producing a number of K-12 programs, including an award-winning topical series for NC teens, High School Assembly. Mary Cay was always generous with her time, insights, experience and counsel. In short, a joy with whom to work and an ally in the quest to do good work.”

Melodie Virtue of Foster Garvey named her former colleague John Crigler, whom she called “a pre-eminent community radio lawyer and advocate for public media.”

I, Julie Drizin, nominated Mariana Dale of KPCC to thank her for her engaging, inquisitive hosting of Local that Works webinars.

Kliff Kuehl named Mary Davidson, a supporter and friend of Kansas City PBS.

Duchesne Drew of MPR was named by Ann Alquist, who wanted to honor him “because he is managing change gracefully.”

Cynthia Fenneman of American Public Television remembered Leanne Ka’iulani Ferrer, the late leader of Pacific Islanders in Communication, “for her passion in supporting Pacific Islander and other BIPOC producers.”

Vinnie Curren named Sally Jo Fifer. He wrote, “For 20 years, Sally has been at the helm of ITVS, building the organization, supporting nonfiction television creators, and creating, curating and guiding some of the most recognized documentary programs in public television.”

Curren also named CPB VP Deb Sanchez to the Honor Roll. “Deb is a true leader in education. Smart, respected, approachable: Deb leads a terrific team at CPB that continues to support stations around the country [as they] deliver life-changing educational services,” he wrote.

Susan Harmon of the Public Media Co. board was named by fellow board member John Crigler, who wrote, “It’s hard to think of a major public radio achievement in which she hasn’t been directly or indirectly involved.”

Former KNKX News Director Erin Hennessey was named by Maryanne Zeleznik, who wanted to thank her “for her contributions to public radio and for being a wonderful mentor to me.”

Michael Isip of KQED was named by Will Schutte, “for his extraordinary, heartfelt and visionary leadership.”

Linda O’Bryon named the late Bobbi Kennedy, “who retired from South Carolina ETV and South Carolina Public Radio after 49 years. She was a leader in education, community outreach and public service in every sense of the word.”

Emily Kwong was named to the Honor Roll by Mollie Kabler, who wrote, “Emily is an amazing journalist, currently the host of the NPR podcast ShortWave, who deeply understands the power of storytelling to make our world a better place.”

NPR CEO John Lansing was honored by his predecessor Jarl Mohn, “for steady leadership of NPR in extremely unsteady times.”

William Lund was named by Mike Wassenaar, who wrote that his “leadership supported the growth of KBEM Minneapolis and the development of hundreds of youth broadcasters.”

Christina Kuzmych named Paul Maassen of WWNO/WRFK “for his insightful comments about podcasting and the role NPR can play in uniting the public broadcasting system in gaining this market. … We need a big collective vision.”

Deanna Mackey, founder of Public Media Women in Leadership, was named by Mike Wallace, who wanted to thank her for “her mentoring in my early days in public media … and for her ongoing inspiration and impact to the system at large.”

Mark Fuerst named retiring CEO Tom Mara “for the leadership and vision Tom demonstrated in developing KEXP into a world class pioneering music station.”

Maggie Montgomery, former GM of KAXE, was named by Penny Holcomb. She wrote, “Maggie recently retired after serving as our GM for 24 years. Her nurture of the organization began long before that, as a volunteer and board member, but her vision and quiet, steady leadership are largely responsible for the success we enjoy today.”

Public radio pioneer Jack Mitchell was named by Bill Siemering “for his work as the first Executive Producer of All Things Considered.”

Travis Mitchell of Maryland Public Television was named by Ronnie Agnew, who wrote, “In this year of DE&I, Travis has been a tireless advocate of programming that reflects America. His station, his state, and historically black colleges and universities have benefited from his efforts.”

Erin Moran and the team Public Media Co. were named by PMC board member Susan Harmon, who wanted to honor how PMC helps “public media organizations nationwide with strategic, business decisions that create greater impact and public service.”

The Public Media for All volunteer committee was nominated by Deanna Mackey, who wrote, “I am naming this group to the Honor Roll because they have bravely stepped forward to guide our industry to reflect on where we are and where we could and should be in relation to inclusivity, belonging and living up to the ideals of the Public Broadcasting Act.”

Chuck Singleton contributed to Current “In honor of WFUV’s News Director, Robin Shannon, a tireless mentor to young journalists at WFUV and beyond. Thanks, Robin for all you do!”

Michael Marcotte named Judith Smelser, acting CEO of WMFE in Orlando, “for her dedication to public media journalism — as reporter, editor, trainer, consultant and manager.”

Wendy Turner was nominated by two people: Allison Scholly and Vanessa Davis. Allison wrote that she named Wendy “for her leadership at WBEZ, WKSU and GM of Ohio Public Radio Stations!” Vanessa said, “She was my first (and best) boss in the world of public radio and taught me the most important lessons of my career.”

In addition to these nominations, Robert Avery named Diana Lady Dougan; Joan Lence named Charles Allen; Gary Knell named NPR host Rachel Martin; Paul Haaga named LaFontaine Oliver, GM of WYPR and chair of the NPR board; Sara Robertson named the Public Media Women in Leadership team; Courtney Pledger named Beth Courtney, retiring CEO of Louisiana Public Broadcasting; Jack Conely named the late Susan Howarth; Cameron Risher honored Fred (Mister) Rogers; Debbie Hiott donated in memory of Bill Harwell, a longtime KUT host; and Steve Bass named the late Mike Soper, former SVP of development at PBS and WETA.

Who’s missing from this list? You can still name someone to the Public Media Honor Roll with a donation of $100 or more to Current. If you tell us why you nominated them, we’ll update this post.

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