When O. Leonard Press moved from New England,along with his wife, Lillian, in 1952 to take a position in the University of Kentucky’s Radio Department, television was still a relatively fledgling technology. Still, pioneers like Len Press saw its great potential.
During a trip to Eastern Kentucky, Press learned that the rural Lott’s Creek Community School in Cordia received no state funds and lacked accreditation.
“Of course, I’m thinking, ‘Wow — if we could get television in there, they could have the courses they need for accreditation!’” Press recalled in a 2011 interview. He came away determined to help address the educational challenges of the area.
At that time, all over the nation, people were making the connection between television and education. Here in Kentucky, Press’s idea was not only to improve basic education in the mountains but also to uplift the entire Commonwealth.
“Across Kentucky, I saw the heroic struggle to provide equal education thwarted by the barrier of unequal resources,” he said.
“It was essential that we harness the power of television to assure the education and enrichment of our people so they would have every possible opportunity. We could not afford to accept less.”
Press traveled the state marshalling support for a new television network. He plucked the ear of elected officials, he got educators on his side.
In 1962, the General Assembly established the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television and named Press its first executive director.
Six years later, after building a system of transmitters and constructing the network headquarters in Lexington, KET began broadcasting.
Once established, KET produced and distributed instructional programming statewide. Press hired a cadre of educators to help Kentucky teachers learn how to effectively use educational programs in the classroom. Many innovative services followed: GED preparatory series, distance-learning courses, college telecourses, and more.
Along the way, KET also focused on its service to the broader viewership. Coverage of the Kentucky General Assembly launched a year before C-SPAN did the same for Congress. And numerous series and documentaries have captured and celebrated the people and places that make Kentucky special.
Reflecting on KET’s history of innovation, Ginni Fox, KET’s second executive director, noted that Press always evaluated projects on the amount of good each would do.
“What’s the return on the investment,” Fox said he would ask, “not from the bottom line, profit status — but what is the return in human capital?”
Today’s executive director, Shae Hopkins, who worked under Press in her long career at KET, echoes Fox’s sentiments:
“We’ve never deviated from KET’s founding mission, and, with the continued support of those we serve, we never will.”
A MESSAGE FROM KET’S EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
KET has always strived to enrich lives and build
stronger communities by educating, informing and
inspiring Kentuckians of every age and circumstance.
Over the course of 50 years, we have much to be
proud of in our pursuit of this goal. And we have many
people to thank for making it all possible.
So on this special occasion, let me extend my
deepest gratitude and appreciation to everyone who
has contributed to making KET what it is today.
Thank you to the General Assembly and other
officials who shared Len Press’s original vision and who
have continued to support KET’s mission.
Thank you to our funders and partners.
Thank you to our boards, Friends and volunteers.
Thank you to all the state’s educators.
Thank you to the dedicated KET staff, past and
And, of course, thank you to all the individual
supporters and viewers.
We have much to celebrate and even more to
look forward to thanks to all those who share in KET’s
commitment to the Commonwealth.
KET Executive Director and CEO