Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Remembering Susan Farmer

Susan Farmer was one of the few people I’ve known who could simultaneously project a sense of shrewdness, great wit, and understanding.  She was attractive, bright, and articulate.  She was tenacious…and she had a wonderful sense of humor.

Susan was a public broadcasting colleague.  From the late 1980’s until 2004, she was president of WSBE-TV in Providence, Rhode Island.  She died one month ago – on Monday, September 16, following a long battle with cancer.  She was 71.

Like many who knew her, my initial and abiding reaction to the news of her death was one of loss – even though it’s been years since I talked or corresponded with Susan.  So I’m left to revel in the memories of some good times we shared over the years.  From a Corporation for Public Broadcasting leadership workshop where we first got to know each another – to the many years we worked together within OSBE, the Organization of State Broadcast Executives.

OSBE is comprised of public broadcasting executives from some 25 states that are each served by a statewide network of public broadcasting outlets.  Many are in the wide open spaces, like Wyoming, Nebraska, the Dakotas, and Oklahoma.  But a single station, WSBE-TV in Providence, dominates the entire – if diminutive – state.   And so it was at OSBE that I got to know Susan.

Did I say she was shrewd?  Witty?  Articulate?

Absolutely.  But most of the memories I carry of Susan are of a dedicated professional with a mischievous smile and an infectious sense of humor. 

A pair of scissors and Jack McBride’s necktie were key ingredients for a bit of legendary laughter at several of our OSBE meetings.  And I still chuckle when I recall one starlit night in Virginia when Susan and I, along with Rod Bates and a small cadre of other OSBE golfers, rushed to finish our game before dark….unsuccessfully.  

Our laughter in the darkness left little possibility of ever actually hearing where our golf shots were landing.  We couldn’t see.  But we could laugh…..and we did.

Susan Farmer was passionate about her work.   Rhode Islanders identify her as the one person who saved Rhode Island public television in the early 1990’s when funding for the network had been yanked.

She was a joy to know and work with.  I think you’ll understand why, if you take a few moments to sort through portions of this online tribute to Susan Farmer:  If You Knew Susie.

Some of her colleagues shared their thoughts and memories of Susan in the following excerpt from the WSBE-TV program A Lively Experiment (below), which Susan had created many years ago.   It's a fitting tribute to a classy lady.

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