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Moving on: YPR Pres. LaFontaine Oliver on public radio, community

LaFontaine E. Oliver is president and general manager of WYPR-FM and WTMD-FM, and Chairman of NPR's Board of Directors. (photo by Jim Hobart)
LaFontaine E. Oliver is president and general manager of WYPR-FM and WTMD-FM, and the past chairman of NPR's Board of Directors. Next month, he takes the reins as President and CEO of New York Public Radio. (photo by Jim Hobart)

Tom's guest today is LaFontaine Oliver, the current president and CEO of Your Public Radio.

His achievements here in Baltimore over the past three years are significant. Since his appointment in 2019 as general manager of WYPR, he has merged this station with Towson-based public music station WTMD and engineered a unique partnership between WYPR and the online news organization, the Baltimore Banner. Those two initiatives have irrevocably changed the media landscape of this community.

LaFontaine also served for six years on the Board of Directors at National Public Radio, including two terms as board chair.

In his work both nationally and here at our stations, LaFontaine has raised up diversity and equity as central, animating operating tenets. As one of the few African Americans in senior leadership positions in the NPR system, he has served as a model and a mentor to public media professionals of color across the country.

Before he became the president and general manager of WYPR, he led WMFEin Orlando, Florida for six years. Prior to that, he was the general manager of WEAAat Morgan State University here in Baltimore.

Next month, LaFontaine Oliver will take the helm at New York Public Radio, the nation's largest public radio organization.

LaFontaine Oliver joins Tom today in Studio A for a kind of exit interview, to reflect on his tenure, and the future of public media.

Midday host Tom Hall with today's guest, Your Public Radio President and General Manager LaFontaine Oliver, in WYPR's Studio A. (photo by Izzi Bavis/WYPR)
Midday host Tom Hall with Your Public Radio President & GM LaFontaine Oliver, in WYPR's Studio A. Photo by Izzi Bavis_WYPR


During today's broadcast, Tom took a few moments to remember some of the people he knew who have passed this year...

In Memoriam 2022

"It is my custom on this program to take some time near the end of the year to remember, briefly, some of the people in our local area who have passed away during the year. This is by no means an exhaustive list. I simply want to mention a few of the people in the area who I was blessed to know, and who our community was blessed to have:

Alan Whear, a talented ‘cellist, died in February. He was the director of Pro Musica Rara, a wonderful ensemble that specializes in what’s called “early music” in classical circles. Alan Whear was 64 years old.

Lois Feinblatt lived a long and amazing life. A generous philanthropist to a wide range of causes, in the 1960s, Lois answered an ad from Johns Hopkins looking for happily married housewives to train as therapists. She went on to have a 30 year career as a sex therapist in the Hopkins Sex and Gender Clinic. She continued seeing clients into her 90s. She died in February at the age of 100. Two months later, her dear friend and sex therapist colleague, Ellen Halle also passed away at the age of 95.

The world of church music lost two of its most beloved practitioners this year. Bruce Eicher, who served Grace United Methodist Church as organist and choirmaster for more than 50 years, passed away in June. He was 90 years old. Michael Britt, the Minister of Music at Brown Memorial Church in Bolton Hill died suddenly in August at the age of 61. Both of these wonderful artists were highly respected as inventive, imaginative and masterful players, and both were beloved as warm and generous colleagues and friends.

Wayne Shaumberg taught public school for many years, but it was as a tour guide at Greenmount Cemetery that I and countless others met him. His Saturday morning tours were a popular fixture on the cultural scene of Baltimore since he began offering them in 1985. Wayne Shaumberg was 75 years old.

In September, Nancy Brennan passed away at the age of 73. A museum curator and activist, Nancy was the director of the City Life Museums here in Baltimore, and the head of other institutions around the country. She was a passionate advocate for the arts in Baltimore and beyond, and a tenacious soldier in the fight for social justice.

Tom McCarthy was a farmer from the Eastern Shore whose clientele lined up weekly for the incredible strawberries, asparagus and beans that for decades he brought to the Waverly and Downtown farmers markets. My week was never complete without checking in with Tommy to see what was on his mind, and what was in his coolers. He suffered a heart attack early one morning at the end of September as he prepared to come to the Waverly Market. Tom McCarthy was 86 years old.

Elizabeth Schaff, the archivist at the Peabody Institute and the author of a great history of music in Baltimore, and Harriet Lynn, a dancer, singer and arts advocate, both passed away in October. Liz was 81 years old. Harriet was 77. Their contributions to the cultural vitality of our community were sustained, and substantial.

And last weekend, a few of us were honored to participate in a memorial service for Don McPherson, a successful corporate lawyer who for years, volunteered to help those in need. He was 81 when he passed away earlier this month. Don was a lover of music and the humanities, an intellectually curious seeker of wisdom and wonder, and simply one of the nicest people anyone could hope to know.

For the blessing of knowing all of these bright lights of our community, I am grateful, for what they have meant to me, and to the city they enlivened so wonderfully. May they rest in peace."

— Tom Hall

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