David O. Ives, president of leading pubcaster WGBH Boston 1970-1984, died May 16 in San Francisco after a brief illness while visiting family. He was 84.
During his tenure, the station produced and introduced to PBS such legendary and long-running shows as “Mystery!” “Nova,” “Frontline,” “Masterpiece Theatre,” “Evening at the Pops,” “This Old House,” Julia Childs cooking shows and “The Victory Garden,” to name a few.
Born in Salem, Mass., he graduated from Harvard and its business school, and served during WWII in the Navy, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant. He worked in print media after the war, first for the Salem Evening News and then, from 1947 to ’58, for the Wall Street Journal, where he served as a reporter and/or editor in several locations, including New York, Detroit, Washington and Boston, where he was bureau chief.
He entered television in 1958, first as editorial writer for WBZ; he joined WGBH in 1960. He began as head of fund-raising and community relations, a task he never really gave up. During his tenure as president of WGBH, the pubcaster — which already owned two Boston TV outlets and a radio station — acquired a third outlet in Springfield, Mass.
In 1966 he began the first “Channel 2 Auction,” an annual on-air fund-raiser for the station that has since been copied by other PBS stations. Even after stepping down as president, he continued to appear on air as one of the auction hosts. From 1984 to 2001, Ives served as vice chairman of the WGBH board of trustees and chairman of its executive committee.
He also served as vice chairman of the board of managers of PBS 1974-77 and as chairman of the National Assn. of Public Television Stations 1982-86. In 1985 he received the Ralph Lowell Award, the highest honor in public broadcasting. In 1988 he was given the Governor’s Award from the New England chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences.
Survivors include his wife Patricia, two sons from his first marriage, four stepchildren, five grandchildren and seven stepgrandchildren.
A memorial service is planned for Thursday May 29 at Harvard’s Memorial Church.