George Page, Creator and Host of NATURE on PBS
Arlington, VA, June 29, 2006 -- George Page, whose rich voice and infectious enthusiasm for the natural world made him one of public television's most popular personalities as on-air host of the weekly series NATURE, succumbed to cancer on June 28, in Equinunk, PA. He was 71.
Mr. Page's journalism and broadcasting career spanned more than 50 years, but he was best known as the creator and voice of the Emmy and Peabody Award-winning wildlife and natural history series, produced for PBS by Thirteen/WNET New York. The series debuted in 1982 and will mark its 25th season on the air this coming fall.
Mr. Page introduced and narrated each episode of NATURE, until an illness prompted his retirement from television in 1998. He then devoted his time to the completion of a book, Inside the Animal Mind, which explored the latest research and findings about animal intelligence and self-awareness. The well-received book became the basis of a three-part miniseries of the same name, broadcast on NATURE in January of 2000.
"The world has lost a great storyteller, and I have lost a dear friend. George Page took his skills as a journalist and applied them to subjects that our society often overlooks: science, nature and the animal kingdom," said Paula A. Kerger, president and chief executive officer of PBS and formerly chief operating officer at Thirteen/WNET. "Perhaps no one else in the United States has done more to increase our appreciation and understanding of the world and its inherent splendor and majesty. I join the many fans of NATURE and my colleagues in public television in extending condolences to George's partner, Dennis, and their family and friends."
During his 26 years at Thirteen/WNET, Mr. Page also served as director of science and natural history programming, and was responsible for such notable series as Travels, The Brain (also a Peabody winner), The Mind, and Medicine at the Crossroads.
Mr. Page also played a role in cultural and entertainment programming at Thirteen. He was executive producer of The Spencer Tracy Legacy: A Tribute by Katharine Hepburn, and the Emmy Award-winning Fred Astaire: Change Partners and Dance, and supervised such popular programs as Jukebox Saturday Nite; American Pop: the Great Singers; The Fifties - Moments to Remember, and the Emmy-nominated Fred Astaire: Puttin' on His Top Hat.
Born in the rural community of Hartwell, Georgia, Mr. Page became a keen observer of the natural world from an early age. And his powerful and distinctive voice led him into local radio when he was only 14. He recalled that his on-air duties while still a teenager included hosting the "Obituary Column of the Air."
Mr. Page moved to local television as an on-camera newsman in Atlanta, reporting on the civil rights movement in the early 1960s. He then began a tenure with NBC News, where he served variously as a foreign correspondent, acting bureau chief and producer. Mr. Page covered the Vietnam War and other major stories of that period. Switching to public television, he worked for PBS in Washington D.C. in a variety of executive positions before joining Thirteen/WNET, the nation's largest public television station, in 1972.
"In 1980, George began developing an hour-long series that he hoped would break new ground with weekly in-depth and innovative coverage of the natural world," recalls Fred Kaufman, executive producer of NATURE since 1991, who was on the production staff from the outset. "It didn't take long for George's vision to be realized. Two years later, the series' very first offering, a miniseries called Flight of the Condor, won Best of Festival Award at the International Wildlife Festival and the National Audubon Award. We were off to an auspicious start."
In fact, NATURE quickly became one of public television's signature series and has consistently ranked among its most highly Nielsen-rated prime-time programs.
Mr. Page was a graduate of Emory University, where in 1990 he would be awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters "for his contributions to science education in the United States." Five years later, Pace University conferred on him a similar honor, for helping television viewers "understand and celebrate in all its diversity the world in which we live."
Among his many volunteer activities, Mr. Page served on the boards of the inner-city non-profit group, The Natural Guard; College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME; and The Dessin Animal Shelter in Honesdale, PA.
Mr. Page is survived by his lifelong partner, Dr. Dennis De Stefano; his nephew Mike Page, and grand-nephews, Bo and Davis, of Rome, GA; his two canine companions, Angie and Charles; and by hundreds of current friends and former colleagues throughout the broadcasting industry.
CONTACTS: Roz Kay, Thirteen/WNET, 212/560-3016; Kay@thirteen.org
Carrie L. Johnson, PBS, 703/739-5129; firstname.lastname@example.org