My Dad, Johnny Appleseed & Father’s Day

It is only fitting with Father’s Day taking place this weekend that I take a moment to celebrate my dad. A few months ago I wrote a post about my 83-year-old father’s recent health crisis where he underwent quadruple bypass surgery at Sacred Heart Regional Heart & Vascular Institute in Pensacola, FL. I was concerned that he wouldn’t make it through the surgery, given his overall poor health (he has emphysema, pulmonary hypertension and other health issues). However, he came through the surgery in spectacular fashion and I’m grateful for everyday I have with him (and with my mom).

What you need to know about my father is that he has always been a star. As I was growing up, he was always on television and people knew him wherever we went. You see, he was one of the pioneers in Public Television (called educational television in the early days) and worked both on air and behind the camera. He was a director, producer and eventually a station manager for Public Television networks around the country: Iowa, Alabama, Maine, Vermont, North Carolina and the US Virgin Islands. He was the Johnny Appleseed of Public Television. He would move from state to state setting up or building up each statewide public television network. While building these fledgling networks, he created locally-produced programming (shows like The Magic Window, On The Agenda, The Teen Show, and Science Challenge), also directing and serving as talent on various talk shows. He also raised a ton of money by leveraging his charm and his passion for educational television through countless fundraising events and auctions. When he wasn’t at the TV station, he was writing thank you notes to donors.

I’ve always admired my dad and took pride in being “Jake Dunlop’s son.” It was an interesting turning point in my life when, toward the end of his career, as I started building a name for myself, people would occasionally ask him if he was Dan Dunlop’s father. He definitely got a kick out of that. As big as his career has been (Emmy Awards, lobbying Congress, etc.), he has always shown more interest in my career than his own. In fact, it wasn’t until he retired that I realized what a trailblazer he had been in the development of Public Television. As he cleaned out his files, he would mail me packages with old news clips and photographs from his career. Finally I was learning about my dad and the very early days of television. It was remarkable. I’ve reproduced some of the photos below to share with you. My favorite photo is the one where my dad is on air reading Winnie The Pooh. The set was made up of cardboard cutouts of Winnie The Pooh characters. Imagine someone reading children’s stories aloud on television – in black & white! Television was definitely in its infancy. Interestingly, after a 40-year career in public broadcasting my father considers himself an educator rather than a broadcaster.

Happy Father’s Day dad. You definitely helped to shape me into the person I am today. I still strive to live up to the example you set.

Post by Dan Dunlop, The Healthcare Marketer

4 comments on “My Dad, Johnny Appleseed & Father’s Day

  1. George McCall

    This is just great, Dan. I like his SOCKS he’s wearing on the set of MIDWEEK! Thanks a million for sending this. One other thing, you can certainly tell you are related to Jake!
    Your friend and admirer,

  2. Pingback: Happy Father’s Day Dad, From Dr. Kevorkian « The Healthcare Marketer

  3. Enzo Di Maio

    I began my TV career in 1977 as a wet-behind-the-ears studio technician at Vermont Public Television (then VTETV). Several months later, station manager Jake Dunlop must have realized he’d never spoken to me. So he broke the ice by stopping me in the hall to earnestly ask if I’d ever consider a job there. What a card! And on one particularly sweltering afternoon (no air conditioning, lotsa lights) we were about to tape viewer donation spots for later broadcast. I was placing a microphone on our seated on-camera talent when I suddenly noticed he wasn’t wearing pants. That too was Jake. And the irony that his spots were destined to target young parents wasn’t lost on him for a second.

    I retired from Vermont Public Television 35 years, 5 EMMYs and a half-dozen job titles later. And I can categorically swear that of the very few colleagues I’ve known whose careers included both great joy and serious professionalism, no one has ever displayed as fine and effective a balance as Jake.

    Enduring legacies are born of very special individuals. Jake was one such individual. And his lighthearted competence set a certain tone for our workplace that endures to this day.

    Thanks Jake!

    • dandunlop

      Enzo – Thank you so much for sharing these stories about my dad. It means a great deal to me to hear from people he worked with and influenced over the years. Take care,

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