APTS Presents Awards to Leaders and Supporters of Public Media

(Image credit: APTS)

WASHINGTON, D.C.—America’s Public Television Stations (APTS) gave out five major awards at the Public Media Summit that honored leaders and supporters of public media in such areas as innovation, public service, championing public media and lay leadership.

The awards included:  

  • The 2023 Pillar of Public Service Award was given to Jonathan Abbott, president emeritus of GBH in Boston, Massachusetts, for his pioneering work in creating innovative educational programming and content for people in Boston and across America.
  • The 2023 Excellence in Innovation Award to Dolores Fernandez Alonso, President and CEO of South Florida PBS in Miami, Florida, for her groundbreaking leadership in the creation and ongoing success of the Health Channel. 
  • The 2023 National Advocacy Award was given to Jack Williams, governmental relations manager at Alabama Public Television, for his work in building relationships and support for public broadcasting within the Alabama congressional delegation and State Legislature.
  • The 2023 David J. Brugger Lay Leadership Award was given to Diana Enzi, representing WyomingPBS, for being a tireless advocate for public broadcasting, both on the national and State levels. 
  • APTS gave its Champion of Public Broadcasting Award to Domenic Ruscio, a long-time advocate who recently retired.

APTS said the Pillar of Public Service Award, which was given to Jonathan Abbott, recognizes the contribution of an extraordinary leader and innovator in one or more of public television’s three essential public service missions: education, public safety, and civic leadership. 

Under Abbott’s leadership, GBH helped create PBS LearningMedia, a rich digital resource platform which helps two million K-12 teachers enhance 40 million students’ education every day with tens of thousands of engaging, interactive learning objects adapted from the best of public television programming and additional resources from the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Archives, NASA, National Science Foundation and more. This service has been widely used throughout the pandemic by students and teachers alike, with a record 20 million users visiting the site during the 2020-2021 school year.

As a trusted leader in educational media for more than 50 years, GBH is the largest producer of PBS content for television and the web. Its programming has ranged from iconic children’s programming such as Molly of Denali, Where in the World is Carmen San Diego, Arthur, Martha Speaks, Curious George, Between the Lions, and Pinkalicious and Peterrific, and Zoom to the lifelong learning series including American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, Frontline, Masterpiece and NOVA.

"Over the course of a 24-year career at GBH, first as general manager and then as president and CEO, Jon Abbott has made so many extraordinary contributions to public broadcasting that it’s difficult to catalog them all, much less pay adequate tribute to each of them,” said Patrick Butler, president and CEO of America’s Public Television Stations. “He was a founder of the Contributor Development Partnership, which has helped revolutionize fundraising for public television stations. He was a co-creator of the WORLD and CREATE channels that provide rich public affairs and how-to programming content to stations nationwide. With the Library of Congress, he launched the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, digitizing and preserving decades of public media content. And the list of such accomplishments runs on and on.”

The 2023 Excellence in Innovation Award  was given to Dolores Fernandez Alonso, president and CEO of South Florida PBS in Miami, Florida, for her groundbreaking leadership in the creation and ongoing success of the Health Channel.

Created by South Florida PBS in 2018, the Health Channel is the first TV channel of its kind, connecting viewers with medical and well-being specialists in real time and promoting healthier lifestyle options. In partnership with local organizations including Baptist Health South Florida and Miami’s Community News, the service provides the latest health information to enable viewers to better manage their own health. To complement the 24/7 broadcast and live interactions with medical and well-being specialists, the Health Channel offers a robust companion digital platform that provides access to specialized services.

“Under Dolores’s innovative, dedicated and passionate leadership, South Florida PBS and the Health Channel are offering their community – and Americans across the country -- a wealth of trusted information on everything from the coronavirus to mental health and medical breakthroughs to help people live healthier lives,” Butler said. “This is truly pioneering work, and it’s one more excellent example of the power of public television to invent a better future for all of us.”

The Champion of Public Broadcasting Award, which was given to Domenic Ruscio, is given to political leaders and other individuals who safeguard the ability of local public television stations to provide education, public safety and civic leadership services to their communities.

As a budget official of the former Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Ruscio delivered the first federal check for $5 million to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) in 1969. From his service on the Senate Appropriations Committee staff, to his successful advocacy for our federal funding over the past 25 years as a consultant to APTS, Ruscio’s unwavering engagement has significantly strengthened the public media system. This exceptional work culminated over the last four years with consecutive increases in funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and a cumulative increase of $188 million across all public media programs, resulting in the highest level of federal funding for public broadcasting in history.

“From the moment Dom Ruscio delivered the first federal check to CPB more than 50 years ago, no one has done more, over a longer period of time, to ensure the essential public investment in our work,” Butler said. “His wise counsel, effective advocacy and personal passion for the mission of public media have been indispensable to our success over the past five decades. It’s my great honor to present him with this most well-deserved 2023 Champion of Public Broadcasting Award.”

The 2023 David J. Brugger Lay Leadership Award was given to Diana Enzi.

Elected to the WyomingPBS Foundation Board of Directors in 2020, Diana Enzi has been a tireless advocate for public broadcasting, both on the national and State levels. In addition to the foundation board, Mrs. Enzi serves on its Outreach and Events Committee and has helped organize screenings of Wyoming PBS programs, generated ideas for such programming, and connected Wyoming PBS with new friends and supporters across the State.

As the wife of the late U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, who was a faithful supporter of public broadcasting and federal funding for local stations for more than two decades, Mrs. Enzi has been, and continues to be, an influential and effective voice highlighting the important role of local public television and the need for continued federal investment in public media. Senator and Mrs. Enzi were partners in life for more than 50 years, from running shoe stores in Gillette to representing Wyoming in the United States Senate.

Mrs. Enzi has also been an active member of the board of the National Job Corps Association, which said upon her retirement in 2021, “Her commitment to education for young people has made a great impact on many students’ lives.”

“Diana Enzi has been a quiet but extraordinarily effective advocate for public broadcasting for decades,” Butler said. "She marshals her amazing network of friends and admirers in Wyoming for the benefit of Wyoming PBS in countless ways, and she was a beloved ambassador for our work on Capitol Hill with Senators and spouses alike for a quarter of a century. We are deeply indebted to her for advancing bipartisan support for public television over so many years, and we are honored to present the 2023 David J. Brugger Lay Leadership Award to Diana Enzi.”

The National Advocacy Award, which was given to Jack Williams of Alabama Public Television, is presented to station leaders who excel in telling the story of their local station’s work in education, public safety and civic leadership and how federal and State funding make that work possible.

“Jack Williams is a tireless advocate for public broadcasting, helping to strengthen our ever-growing bipartisan support both in Congress and throughout the State of Alabama,” Butler said. “Jack has been an extraordinarily effective champion of our cause with the Alabama congressional delegation, investing considerable time and energy in educating these leaders about our public service missions of education, public safety and civic leadership, and about the indispensable nature of the federal investment in our work.

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.