Houston PBS
Jeff Clarke, John Hesse and Ken Lawrence
Photo ©
Phil Makanna. Composite by J. Kevin Tumlinson

Contact Information:

Houston PBS
4343 Elgin
Houston, TX 77004

Phone: (713) 748-8888

Jeff Clarke - jclarke@houstonpbs.org
John Hesse - jhesse@houstonpbs.org
Ken Lawrence - klawrence@houstonpbs.org

Web Site: www.houstonpbs.org




America's First Public Television Station
On May 25, 1953, KUHT made television history when it signed on the air for its premier broadcast. As America's first public television station, KUHT has served as a model and example for other educational television stations and systems throughout the country. A Houston institution, the station even pre-dates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). KUHT, licensed to the University of Houston, has proven the value of educational television over the years. It began with a mission to expand the reach of the university's classroom offerings and to provide programming that would interest not only students and faculty, but also the community at large.

The station has changed with the times: broadcasting in color for the first time in 1964; becoming the first station in Houston to telecast with closed captioning for the hearing impaired in 1981; and the first to offer bilingual capabilities, descriptive video and the Houston Taping for the Blind Radio signal through SAP technology in 1991.

Houston Public Television has a long history of quality, award-winning local and national productions. Its original productions feature the history and culture of the Southeast Texas Gulf Coast region with programs like The Texas Rangers, The Ranchers, Love Of The Game: The History of Baseball In Houston, Liberty Texas, In Search Of La Salle and the six-part series Houston: Remember When. National productions include Live At The Woodlands with B.B. King, Honor Squadrons, Living with Killer Bees, A World Transformed, Brother, Can You Spare A Billion? The Story Of Jesse H. Jones, The Houston Symphony: A Maestro's Farewell and a two-part International project, Space Station.

Houston Public Television is leading PBS stations into the digital age of television through the construction of the LeRoy and Lucile Melcher Center for Public Broadcasting. This new state-of-the-art broadcast facility will allow KUHT to prepare for programming on its digital channel. With the increased capabilities of the digital channel, the station's future plans include expanding its electronic courses and long-distance education programs.




Jeff Clarke Biography
Jeff Clarke is chief executive officer and general manager of KUHT/Houston Public Television, a position to which he was named by the Board of Regents of the University of Houston System in 1992. Before coming to KUHT, he was associate director of television and acting development director for Wisconsin Public Television, a six-station PTV network with headquarters in Madison, Wisconsin.

Clarke graduated from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a B.A. in Radio, Television and Film, later earning an M.A. in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin. He began his career as a broadcaster in 1965, working in various capacities in commercial television and radio before entering public broadcasting in 1978. During his 20 years in public television, he has served as director of programming and production at WHA-TV in Madison; as executive producer of the national PBS series, The New Tech Times; and as manager for News and Public Affairs at KETC in St. Louis, Missouri.

In 1997, he was elected to the PBS Board of Directors. Since 1995 he has been a member of the PBS New Technologies Working Group, advising the PBS Board of Directors on the potential of current and emerging broadcasting technologies. During his time on the working group, he served as chairman of the Direct Broadcast Satellite sub-committee.

He has also served on the board of trustees of America's Public Television Stations (APTS), and was elected its vice chairman in 1995. He has served on the board of directors of the Southern Educational Communications Association (now NETA), including three terms on its executive committee, to which he was elected treasurer in 1995. He has been a member and vice chairman of the Central Educational Network board of directors, and chairman of its Program Council's Executive Committee. He is an American Leadership Forum senior fellow as a member of the Houston Chapter's leadership class number XV.

Clarke is active in numerous local organizations as well:

  • Habitat for Humanity, as a volunteer
  • The Limbs of Love Foundatin, as a member of the Advisory Board
  • Taping for the Blind, as President of the Board
  • The Whitehall Club of Houston, as Vice President
  • The Space Center Houston Educational Foundation, as a member of the Advisory Board

Formerly, Clarke was chairman of the board of directors for the United Church of Christ's National Office of Communication. He has also served in leadership positions at First Congregational Church, UCC, of Houston. From 1993 to 1995, he was on the board of directors for the Houston Rotary Club, and was a member of the Lombardi Award Advisory Committee. Clarke has won numerous awards during his broadcasting career: Five local EMMY nominations while working at KETC-TV, St. Louis; a silver medal from the New York International Film Festival for The New Tech Times; Corporation for Public Broadcasting local program awards; and numerous AP and UPI news awards.

John Hesse Biography
John Hesse is station manager for KUHT/Houston Public Television. Since his arrival in 1997, he has been in charge of programming, production, communications, development, and community education and outreach. peviously, Hesse was general manager of WLJT-TV in Martin, Tennessee. During his four years there he successfully headed up that station's "rebirth," substantially boosting both membership and revenue.

Hesse was born in Louisville, Kentucky and received his B.F.A. in Speech Arts/Broadcasting from the University of Arizona. He began his public broadcasting career in 1968 as a producer/writer/director for KUAT-TV in Tucson. In 1974, he became a producer/writer/director for KUED-TV in Salt Lake City, where he remained for the next six years.

In 1980, he turned toward commercial television working widely in syndication and cable. He managed and directed numerous projects for Osmond Entertainment, then formed his own production company producing a wide array of projects for syndication, HBO, Country Television of England, Osmond Entertainment, PBS and TNN. He helped launch The Nashville Network, serving for four years as producer/director.

In 1989, he returned to public broadcasting in the development area of KCET in Los Angeles, working in fundraising with major donor, foundation, corporate and capital campaign initiatives. Hesse's dual experience in private and public broadcasting is one of the keys to his success at Houston Public Television, and the cornerstone of his approach: "A public broadcasting organization can no longer look at itself simply as a broadcaster," Hesse says. "It must establish itself as the primary provider of unique programming and services. Competition has increased on all fronts, from programming to computer services and interactive media products, and even to educational services for schools and teachers. It's important to embrace these new areas and explore the business, venture and service opportunities that they offer."

He is a current member of the Public Broadcasting Management Association and the Houston Rotary Club. Hesse takes a lively interest in issues, and is active in both local and national organizations.

He is a past member of the:

  • Southern Education Communications Association Board of Directors
  • Southern Education Communications Association Finance Committee
  • Tennessee Public Television Council
  • University of Tennessee at Martin Communications Advisory Council

Ken Lawrence Bio
A graduate of The University of Texas from the School of Radio-TV-Film, Ken Lawrence has been in public television for over twenty years, more than 15 of them in programming. He has worked at KLRN/KLRU, Austin/San Antonio when the stations were joint licensees, WNIT, South Bend, Indiana, WPTD/WPTO Dayton/Oxford, Ohio and has been Director of Programming at KUHT in Houston since 1993.

Mr. Lawrence is a two-term member of the Board of the Public Television Programmer's Association (1997-present) and serves on the Executive Committee. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of Houston's School of Communications since 1995, teaching a fall semester undergraduate class in Programming and Ratings for Television, Radio and Cable.

He has been instrumental in developing and bringing forward a wide range of nationally distributed specials and series for KUHT including "B.B. King.Live at the Woodlands", "A World Transformed: Our Remembrances of Ending the Cold War" with former president George H.W. Bush, "Honor Squadrons", "The Texas Rangers: Six Brave Men" and the Suncoast Emmy-award winning biographical documentary "Brother Can You Spare A Billion? The Story of Jesse H. Jones", as well as a woodworking series, "The American Woodshop", now completing its ninth season.