Public Television pioneer and civic leader, Hudson Stoddard, died on October 2, 2017 at age 94, in New Canaan, CT of natural causes. Beloved husband, father and grandfather Hud Stoddard was born in Bronxville, NY in 1922. He attended public schools in Schenectady, Providence, Denver and Philadelphia, moving with his father's career as a school Superintendent. He graduated with honors from the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs in 1944. He served as a Diplomatic Courier with the U.S. Department of State before joining Time Inc. in 1947. He was later named Assistant to the Publisher of LIFE magazine, where his assignments included the publicity campaign and LIFE cover story surrounding the publication of former President Harry S. Truman's memoirs. In 1965, he joined New York Public Television Station WNET/Channel 13, then only in its third year of existence, as Vice President for Development and Secretary of the Educational Broadcasting Corporation. The dire need for funding forced the young public broadcasting executive to take matters into his own hands -- and take to the airwaves himself during featured programming to ask viewers for contributions. Cementing his place in broadcasting folklore, Hud was thereafter known -- for better or worse -- as the father of the PBS fundraising "pledge break." He later devised the now-ubiquitous WNET tote bag and other premiums as a way of rewarding generous "viewers like you." His early efforts to secure funding from individuals, foundations and corporate sponsors ensured the long-term financial viability of public television. His innovations from decades ago, including "Friends of Thirteen," remain vital staples of WNET to this day. Hud retired from WNET in 1987 and remained a devoted viewer and supporter, proud to see his daughter Jane carry on the family tradition by serving on the board of WNET. Prior to his work in public broadcasting, Hud made a landmark contribution to New York arts and culture. Under the direction of John D. Rockefeller, 3rd, he served as Director of Development of the successful campaign to raise $150 million to build Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. With his wife, Patricia Lovejoy Stoddard, Hud moved to New Canaan, CT in 1956 and embarked on decades of public service to his community -- serving for eight years on the Board of Education, two of them as Chairman. In 1989, he was elected to the New Canaan Town Council. Keenly interested in world affairs and diplomacy, his board memberships included the Coalition for Nuclear Arms Control and the New Canaan U.N. Committee. As an advocate for peace and social justice, and a longtime member and former Elder of the New Canaan First Presbyterian Church, he was proud to have attended the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington. In addition to his wife of 63 years, Hud is survived by three children and their families: Daniel Stoddard (Milagros Lecuona), Jane Stoddard Williams (Brian Williams), and Alexander Stoddard (Lisa Wyatt) -- and by grandchildren Allison Williams (Ricky Van Veen), Douglas Williams, Caroline Stoddard and step- granddaughter Isadora Gacel Machado Lecuona. Hud faced the onset of dementia nine years ago in the same gentlemanly manner as he greeted all new challenges in his life. He never lost his sunny disposition, sense of humor, innate kindness, respect for others, or his appreciation for each new day. Contributions may be made in his name to THIRTEEN WNET, to Horizons National headquartered in Westport, CT, or to Staying Put in New Canaan, where his wife, Pat, is a founding member. A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church of New Canaan at 11am on Saturday, November 25.
Published in New York Times on Oct. 11, 2017.