John Wilson Dunlop. Everyone knew him as Jake. And nearly everyone knew him. He died yesterday. He was my father. A founder. Innovator. Educator. Broadcaster. Husband. And Dad. My dad.
I’m struggling with the finality of his death. It’s not that things were left unsaid. I often told my dad that I loved him. And he knew that I admired him, emulated him and aspired to be more like him. He shared his achievements with me, and I shared mine with him. (At age 53 I still sent him a copy of every article I published and he would call me to discuss them.) My wife, Scotti, thinks that I’ve become him. In small ways that is true. But I will never be Jake. I’ve got too much of my mom in me. It’s the combination of mom and dad that makes me the person that I have become. But as I said, I’m struggling. It is difficult for me to imagine that moving forward I won’t have conversations with my dad. I won’t get those quirky note cards he would send. I’ll miss all of it. He loved my family and we loved him. Dad was so wonderful with Meg and Scotti.
I learned a lot about healthcare in my dad’s final days. I shared some of those lessons in this blog. The experience also led me to read more about the patient’s perspective. I’m grateful for the learning and the perspective that this has afforded me.
For those of you who didn’t know my dad, here’s an introduction. Jake loved his family. He also enjoyed antiquing, collecting tobacco cutters and duck decoys, telling tall tales, Saturday morning trips to the hardware store and being the center of attention. As a kid, one of my favorite things was running errands with dad on Saturdays. He would fix a glass of scotch and we would head out to the local hardware store, the barbershop and other points of interest. Wherever we lived, he was a local celebrity and television personality. He was recognized everywhere we went, and would make time for anyone who wanted to chat. On Saturday mornings I was part of his entourage – and it was so much fun.
Dad was a pioneer in the field of public broadcasting. In the early days of television he played every role imaginable: producer, director, actor, program host, fundraiser, and station manager. Above all, he was an educator. Throughout his 40-year career in broadcasting he worked successfully to bring quality educational and public affairs programming to people living in remote areas where television signals didn’t typically reach.
Jake began his television career while attending Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. In 1950, he was offered the opportunity to move to the new medium of television as a producer-director. Iowa State was preparing to launch WOI-TV– the nation’s first educational television station. At WOI-TV, Jake produced and directed over 4,000 programs of all types ranging from in-school programs to college courses, cultural, science, news and public affairs to children’s programming. In 1952 he received the Institute for Education by Radio and Television Award for Children’s Programming.
From 1953 to 1954 he freelanced as director of sports telecasts for CBS. In 1955 Jake took a position as production manager for Alabama Educational Television at Auburn University. He was later promoted to manager of the Auburn Studios of the Alabama Network. In 1962, Jake went to work for the University of Maine in Orono to develop the State of Maine’s Educational Television Network.
Jake worked for the Ford Foundation from 1968 to 1970, laying the foundation for a public television service in the Virgin Islands. In 1970, he was appointed Station Manager of Vermont Educational Television. In 1977, Jake won an Emmy for Vermont ETV’s original production – “The 14th Star.” This was one of several Emmy’s he would win throughout his career.
Jake took his final public television post in 1980, as director of the University of North Carolina Center for Public Television (UNC-TV). His assignment was to bring together separate operations run by three UNC campuses into one Center for Public Television. He led the Center to national prominence as a producer of quality programming for the national market including The Woodwright’s Shop, American Patchwork and Globe Watch.
Jake was an Emmy Award Winner; a recipient of the North Carolina Order of the Long Leaf Pine; member of the N.C. Association of Broadcasters’ Hall of Fame; member of the PBS Committee on Volunteerism; and former member Board of Trustees of the Eastern Educational Network. Most importantly, he was my dad.