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Grand Valley mourns death of Public Television pioneer

  • Chuck Furman

Posted on May 16, 2014

The Grand Valley community is mourning the death of Chuck Furman, one of the original employees of WGVU. Furman died May 16 . He was 73.

Furman dedicated his life to Public Television and WGVU. His family was also heavily involved including his wife, Judy, and their two sons, David and Daniel.
After earning a master’s degree in broadcast journalism at Penn State in 1966, Furman embarked on a career that would become his true calling in television — the newly founded Public Broadcasting Service. His first job with PBS was producer/director at WBGU Channel 70 at Bowling Green State University. While there, he also served as production manager, operations manager, program manager and acting general manager.

In 1972, a colleague told Furman he was moving to Grand Rapids to help start a PBS station and he wanted Furman to join him. Furman made the move and worked to develop the initial operation components for WGVU, becoming the station’s first program manager. Eight years later, Furman was named assistant general manager in charge of community relations, a position he held until his retirement in 2005.

In 2004, Furman was inducted into the Silver Circle of the Michigan Chapter of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006, he was inducted into the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame.  

“Chuck started his career when things like videotape and cable television were new and revolutionary,” said Michael Walenta, WGVU general manager. “At the time of his retirement, he had been part of the transition to digital platforms and high definition. He worked with it all — something few broadcasters can say. While PBS has always been fortunate to have Fred Rogers, we at WGVU have always been equally fortunate, as we had Chuck Furman.  
“There is no doubt in my mind that had it not been for Chuck’s efforts, WGVU Public Media would not be the success it is today. First, last, and always, Chuck represented the integrity, values and commitment to quality that WGVU Public Media stands for.”
Grand Valley Vice President Matt McLogan echoed Walenta’s sentiments. “Chuck’s selfless dedication to public broadcasting was obvious to viewers and listeners as well as to those in the university community who had the pleasure of working with him,” McLogan said. “I am proud to have counted him both colleague and friend. Everything he did made us better.”
Visitation and funeral will be held at First Park Congregational Church, 10 East Park Place NE in Grand Rapids. Visitation is May 23 from 6-9 p.m. The funeral is May 24 at 11 a.m.

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