While walking the halls of UAA’s Professional Studies Building, or PSB, students and faculty can observe the array of pictures and artwork hanging on the walls. Since PSB is home to the journalism department, many of the pieces are a reflection of Alaska’s journalism and public communications history.
On the bottom floor of the PSB, there are two photos of August “Augie” Hiebert, the creator of Alaska’s first television station. Hiebert started the Anchorage station, KTVA, in 1953. In addition to television, he advanced many different aspects of mass communication in Alaska. Born on Dec. 4, 1916, in Trinidad, Washington, Hiebert built and licensed his first ham radio at age 15.
“It’s the perfect photo of Augie Hiebert with his shirt sleeves rolled up, his face inches away from the microphone, pencil in hand to edit copy, and you can catch a glimpse of a turntable in the radio — the quintessential radio studio. The only thing missing is a cigarette dangling out of his mouth and he could be typecast in a movie from the ’50s,” UAA Atwood Chair of Journalism, Larry Persily, said. “It’s a shame the photo is hidden away in a corridor of the building rather than celebrated with a narrative plaque in a prominent location.”
One photograph depicts Hiebert with his cocker spaniel, Sparky, in a radio studio. The second photo shows Hiebert with television equipment.
“My Dad always had the foresight to see Alaska’s potential,” Terry Puhr, Hiebert’s youngest daughter, said in a University of Alaska News Center article. “For him, the bottom line was never about money. He cared about what the community wanted and needed. He understood that geography isolated Alaskans from the Lower 48 and its impact on peoples’ well-being, so he made it his life’s work to connect our communities to the rest of the world with TV and radio.”
Before Hiebert’s intervention, taped events were sent to Alaska and later broadcasted. After negotiating with the U.S. military and Alaska’s congressional delegation, satellite feed of Neil Armstrong’s July 20, 1969 walk on the moon was broadcasted live in Alaska. In 1939, Hiebert helped to build the first radio station in Fairbanks and devoted hours every day copying Morse code at 40-50 words per minute in order to share national news stories, according to another University of Alaska News Center article.
Hiebert went on to be honored by the Alaska State Committee on Research when they inducted him into the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame for the class of 2020. He was also inducted by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences into the Gold Circle, which honors individuals who have made a meaningful contribution of 50 years or more to the broadcast industry, according to the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Heartland Chapter. Hiebert died of cancer on Sept. 13, 2007, at the age of 90.
“The great state of Alaska has lost one of its most distinguished citizens. Augie Hiebert was the pioneer of communications who brought radio and later television to his beloved home state,” Walter Cronkite, a friend of Hiebert’s, said after his death in a University of Alaska News Center article.
For more information on Hiebert and his contribution to Alaska’s broadcast communications, visit the University of Alaska News Center. To view the photographs of Hiebert, go to the bottom floor of the Professional Studies Building.
Have you seen art at UAA you want to know more about? Contact Gabby Vance at [email protected].