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Robert F. "Bob" Schenkkan

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Robert F. "Bob" Schenkkan Mar. 17, 1917 - Dec. 9, 2011 Robert F. Schenkkan, a founder of Public Broadcasting in the United States, retired Professor of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin, and General Manager, Retired, of KLRU-TV and KUT, died on February 9, 2011, in Austin, Texas. Bob was born in Manhattan to Joseph and Flora Schenkkan, Dutch immigrants, on March 4, 1917, and grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island, graduating from the new Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, Long Island. After working four years in Manhattan from 1933 to 1937, Bob learned he could go to college on scholarship, chose the University of Virginia, and graduated in 1941, completing an A.B. degree replete with honors. He then enrolled at the University of North Carolina, only to have his education curtailed when he volunteered for military service. From 1942 to 1946, Bob served in the U.S. Navy as a bomb disposal officer, primarily in the Pacific Theatre of War, and later retired from the Naval Reserves with the rank of Commander. He returned to UNC and completed his M.A. degree in Drama in 1947, taught at UNC, and in January 1955 was asked to put the tenth public broadcasting station, WUNC-TV, on the air. Subsequently, in the fall of 1955, he was recruited by University of Texas President Logan Wilson to come to Austin, Texas, to found the public radio and television stations and to teach as a Professor of Radio-Television-Film, emerging specialties. The success of these public-broadcasting stations has been phenomenal. Bob Schenkkan also was one of three men who founded the College of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin and has long been considered an innovator in both public broadcasting and communications. He received three Ford Foundation grants to study and extend public broadcasting programming and was a Fulbright Lecturer at the University of Chile in 1969 and 1972. His list of consultancies, professional assignments, and other study grants, both in the United States and Latin America is extensive. His memberships in service and arts organizations is long as well, and he continued to serve on the Boards of Directors for KLRU, KUT, Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, and Planned Parenthood until recently. Bob retired early from his managerial positions and from The University of Texas, planning to spend his time fishing; however, he was again recruited, this time by the Agency for International Development in Washington, D.C., and for seven years used his skills and expertise studying and promoting public broadcasting for the AID. He retired when his wife Jean became ill. Bob married Jean McKenzie, a student actress he had met at UNC, on August 26, 1944. Jean preceded him in death on January 3, 1985. They had four children, all of whom, with their spouses, survive him as do all but one grandchild: Pieter and Frances Schenkkan of Austin and grandchildren Benjamin McKenzie, Nathaniel Schenkkan and Scout Tufankjian, and Zachary and Camille Schenkkan; Dirk and Patricia Schenkkan of San Francisco, California, and granddaughters Jean, Penelope and Victoria Schenkkan; Robert Schenkkan and Maria Headley of Seattle, Washington, and grandchildren Sarah and Joshua Schenkkan; Gerard "Tex" and Judith Schenkkan of San Francisco, California, grandson Aaron and Karla Cheris, great-granddaughters Athena and Sonya and granddaughter Katherine Schenkkan. Bob was also pre-deceased by his parents, his sister Theresa Dougan, his brother Lynn Stuart, and grandson Patrick McKenzie Schenkkan. In 1989 Bob married Phyllis Rothgeb and is survived by Phyllis, her sons, and daughter-in-law: John Reese Rothgeb, Jr.; David Rothgeb, Mia Pem and grandchildren Sadie Rothgeb and Lalo Rothgeb-Pem. Bob showed greatest pride, aside from delight in his family, in his success promoting and protecting Public Broadcasting, particularly during the turbulent era of the Nixon Presidency. He is touted as a voice of reason and reconciliation, always insisting on fair, objective broadcasting. For that stance, Bob has received great national acclaim. But for those who knew and loved him, he will be remembered not only for his intellectual and administrative acumen and his delightful wit, but even more for being always a perfect gentleman. The family extends its sincere appreciation to those professionals and friends who assisted Bob in these last years, Our thanks go to Dr. Jaron Winston and Kathye Gipson, Dr. John Murray, Minnie Vasquez, Maria Ramirez, Kate Warren and to friends Ira Iscoe, who took him to yoga classes, and Bill Phillips, who amused him with lively stories on Monday mornings. Further thanks go to J. Stewart Vanderwilt of KUT, Bill Stotesbery of KLRU and their staffs for their continuing concern and affection and particularly for the remarkable 90th Birthday Celebration they hosted. The caregivers and other staff at Arden Courts of Austin have attended Bob with care and affection. Thank you all. A memorial celebration will be held at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 6, 2011 in the College of Communications Auditorium, with a reception following in the lobby. Memorial contributions may be made to the Bob Schenkkan Endowed Scholarship Fund at the College of Communications, The University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas 78712; Planned Parenthood; or Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic. Interment will be in Arlington Cemetery, Washington, D.C. Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com


Published in Austin American-Statesman from Feb. 12 to Feb. 13, 2011
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