The Money Room: 1960s – ’80s

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series The Money Room
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Tales from WGBH’s Development Office

Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing a bit of history written by John Kerr, John Carver, and Sam Tyler whose fundraising careers at WGBH spanned three decades.

All three are quick to point out that any success they had derived from the product they sold: the nation’s top public broadcasting organization. They give credit and thanks to the many people and departments who comprised the go-go outfit they were proud to represent.

And, they remain close friends, having kept in touch all these years.


John Kerr left WGBH in 2004 after years as its public spokesman and unapologetic fund-raiser. He shifted to a retirement job to scratch his interest in wild land and wildlife conservation, becoming a seasonal park ranger in Yellowstone National Park — a childhood dream. There, proudly wearing the traditional “flat hat” of a U.S. Park Ranger, John has been elevating the experience of thousands of visitors he sees annually in America’s first national park, encouraging the protection and conservation of Yellowstone’s astonishing natural wonders. He lives in Silvergate, Montana and Norwich, Vermont.



John Carver’s career at WGBH spanned almost 15 years, ending in 1990. He went on to develop and executive produce for PBS The Story of Golf, hosted by Jim McKay. He also supported several other public television stations with their underwriting needs before retiring in 2008. Since then, he has staffed the Tourism Bureau kiosk on Boston Common, where he continues to help visitors navigate the Freedom Trail and other historical treasures. He lives in Winthrop, MA.



Sam Tyler moved on from WGBH in 1983 to become an independent producer. He specialized in documentaries based on best-selling business books, including In Search of Excellence and Good to Great. His most recent series, West of the West, is available on Amazon Prime. He lives in Santa Barbara, CA.



Read more entries in The Money Room series.


Special thanks to Gene Mackles for the series wordmark.

5 Comments

  1. Susan Peters on June 11, 2021 at 2:28 pm

    I would like to add a comment on the role played by my mother, Helen Peters, who helped start the Misterrogers Days that astounded everyone because only a few families were expected and the lines ended up going around the block. She also played a pivotal role in promoting Julia Child, Thalassa Crusoe, Maggie the Wonderful Machine, What’s Happening Mr. Silver and so on. When I later worked for Fred Rogers, he commented to me that her efforts made it possible for his show to gain the attention that it did leading to funding both for WGBH and WQED. She loved ‘GBH from the time spent carrying out equipment out of the debris of the fire through to her departure when she became a college professor.

    • Steve Gilford on June 18, 2021 at 2:51 am

      Some of my most valued memories of WGBH involve Helen Peters. Her “shop” upstairs at 125 Western was vibrant with energy. Her staff loved working for her and she reciprocated their feelings. Respect, too, went both ways.

      Helen’s offices were a pleasant place to visit and I often stopped in to see what they were up to. Early on a late fall evening, I received a phone call from New York, forwarded to me in her office from the switchboard. The call went on for some time and I realized I was now alone in the office, everyone had left for the day. Being November, it was already dark outside. Suddenly the lights went out. I called out, “Hey. there’s somebody in here” . The lights, seemingly in reply to my shout, were switched back and I continued my conversation explaining that someone had inadvertently shut off my lights. I had no sooner said that, when the person on the other end of the line said, “The light’s just went out here!”. There was a brief pause as he looked out at Manhattan and and added what were chilling words, “All the light in the city are out”. And then the lights in Boston went out. Given the time and world tensions, one of the most common immediate reactions was Fear. Was this the beginning of WW III? Were we perhaps just seconds away from nuclear oblivion? What followed at WGBH in That Great East Coast Blackout” is worth a whole story on its own and maybe there are still some who were there and would like to tell it. Right now, I want to get back to Helen.

      From her office, you could look out at the Harvard Business School. One time Helen saw me passing in the hall and called me over to help her identify two large birds she saw moving around on the main Business School building’s roof. From the distance, across several open fields, it was hard to tell what they were. We thought they might be turkey vultures but there seemed something odd about them. Someone produced a pair of binoculars and we learned the unromantic truth, they were the ventilators with large black vanes that moved as the passing breezes nudged them about.

      It was the PR Department’s mission to stir up community interest in new shows and the network was about to premiere a new series. It was deemed so very important that the publicity run-up to it was well over a month long and intense. It was Sesame Street and Helen and her crew were busy placing stories in local papers and radio and tv outlets. I don’t remember what the event was but it was some important achievement in this regard and Helen wanted to celebrate. She removed from her desk a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry. Paper cups appeared and all present toasted their achievement and each other.

      We all knew that no alcohol was allowed in the station. It was widely believed that drinking in the station was grounds for immediate dismissal so when David Ives, not yet President of WGBH but a very senior officer, walked in and asked what they were all celebrating, the ambiance in the room changed immediately. Helen stepped forward and explained what they were celebrating. David was suitably impressed and Helen then had the temerity to ask him he would like some of what they were drinking. Instead of scolding them or worse, he said that he would. He raised the proffered cup to his lips and tasted the creamy liqueur before saying what a delight beverage Harvey’s Bristol Cream was and as far as I know, he never raised the question of alcohol at the station.

      I appreciated Helen’s friendship which was deep enough that she felt she could advise me in a personal crisis I was facing. I was touched by her obvious concern, strong enough that she was willing to give me advice she knew I would not welcome but that I needed to consider.

      Helen and her family had a get-away home on Popham Point on the Maine Coast. I was a guest there several times riding my motorcycle up from Boston. Helen loved the spot, not in spite of, I think, but because living there was more 18th than 20th century. Every morning the first order of business after breakfast was cleaning the chimneys of the kerosene lanterns.

      Nearby was a lovely old apple orchard. No doubt, it had been abandoned for several generations but many of the trees were still bearing fruit, quite an achievement given their age, lack of pruning, and all the other benefits of cultivation.

      Perhaps my favorite memory of visiting Helen though is of playing badminton in the front yard with Susan.

  2. Jack Caldwell on June 4, 2021 at 7:44 pm

    FAILURE WAS NOT A CONCEPT WE EVER IMAGINED.

  3. Howard Lowe on June 4, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    Sandy, my wife, and I certainly have romantic memories of our days at GBH, for two reasons: we met there, nearly 47 years ago; then, thirty years later, after Sandy and I had moved on, our daughter Jenna met her future husband there. The four of us are proud of the small roles we played in helping to build the best in the business.

  4. Michael Ambrosino on June 3, 2021 at 8:11 pm

    We have rather romantic memories or the “old days”.

    I think because we were a small band of men and women trying to advance public broadcasting while making sure the stations did not fail and go dark.

    We succeeded and built the best in the nation thanks to a group effort of all of us.

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