We want to share a story about a remarkable man whose vision and commitment to our community resulted in the birth of public television in northeast Indiana and PBS39.
It begins when, once upon a time, there was no such thing as public television in Fort Wayne.
Back in the 1960s and early 1970s, our region was served by three stations. They were affiliated with the same three major networks that dominated broadcast TV in the 1960s and 1970s. Some of us watched on color sets; some us watched on black and white sets, but all of us who grew up here and remember those days, watched basically the same three stations. There was no 24-hour news cycle, cable TV or even internet available to the public. Cell phones were the stuff of science fiction for everyday people.
Time were different. Simpler, yes. But very different from today. Yet, something was missing.
As society was changing and consumer technology improving and evolving, the power of TV was undeniable. Yet for many who watched, they thought – they knew – that this medium in everyone’s home had a power and a purpose yet untapped. The power not just to inform but to educate… The power to change lives… The power to do good through programs being created and broadcast simply for the sake of serving viewers with programming designed and offered to viewers with the intent to make their lives better and their horizons broader.
Enter into this scenario a man named Wallace (Wally) Fosnight. A man, who like many, moved to Fort Wayne with his family (in his case, from Pittsburgh) in search of a bright future for his family and himself. A man who, when he arrived here, found his new hometown not to have a big city amenity he and his family had grown used to: Public Television, and more specifically, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, then just making a national impact from its home station on WQED in Pittsburgh.
What resulted were tears and anguish from his daughter and questions this Dad, who watched Mister Rogers with his children, needed to have answered: Why is there no Mister Rogers on one of Indiana’s largest cities? What would it take to make that series happen in Fort Wayne? How can I get this to happen?
Wally Fosnight didn’t stop at those questions. He networked and wrote letters and made calls and the more he researched, the more he became convinced that public television was not only possible here, but needed here. His mission now grew the needs of his family to the needs of his new hometown. Fosnight dug in and along with other community leaders, became one of the reasons that Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana, in 1975, finally had access to public television – and programs such as Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood through the first broadcasts that Fort Wayne Public Television now shared with our community.
His commitment did not stop there. Fosnight also served as the first chairman of our Board of Directors, all while serving causes and with organizations throughout our community, along with his wife Joan, before moving once again to a new home and new chapters in his life in Elm Grove, Wisconsin.
Recently, on May 17 2018, Wally Fosnight passed away in Elm Grove. We hope you’ll join with us in sharing our sorrow at his passing with his family. Click here to read the tribute to Fosnight recently published in the Journal-Gazette.
We also hope you’ll remember his life and legacy to us all — the educational and transformative power of public television — each time you turn on and tune into Fort Wayne Public Television-PBS39.