Bios | 60th Celebration | OETA
Paula Kerger, PBS PresidentPaula Kerger, PBS President

Paula A. Kerger is president and chief executive officer of PBS, the nation’s largest non-commercial media organization with 350 member stations throughout the country.

Ms. Kerger joined PBS as its sixth president and chief executive in March 2006, and is the longest serving President in PBS history. Since her arrival, Ms. Kerger has made particularly strong commitments to the arts, news and public affairs, high-quality educational content for children and the classroom, diversity, and the use of new digital platforms to bring public media into the lives of all Americans.

Under Ms. Kerger’s leadership, PBS has been growing its audiences across genres, and platforms. In the course of a year, eighty-two percent of all television households in America watch PBS, and over seventy percent of all children watch PBS. And online, in 2015, Americans viewed more than five billion videos across all PBS digital platforms.

Among her accomplishments are the pop-culture phenomenon “Downton Abbey” on MASTERPIECE, Ken Burns’s THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY, the original American drama series MERCY STREET, acclaimed children’s programs such as PEG + CAT and CURIOUS GEORGE, and award-winning apps and online sites. PBS has also developed PBS LearningMedia, which provides educators with digital resources for the classroom.

During Ms. Kerger’s tenure, PBS has launched critically praised online video sites for general audiences ( and children ( and created new digital partnerships with companies like iTunes, YouTube, AppleTV, Microsoft’s Xbox, Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and Comcast’s On Demand service to ensure that PBS programming is accessible across multiple platforms and, increasingly, to a global audience. PBS has also created PBS Digital Studios, which produces high-quality original content exclusively for digital platforms. PBS Digital Studios now distributes more than 30 web-original series, and has been honored with numerous industry awards including 7 Webby awards, 18 Tellys and 2 Mashies, including “Best Branded YouTube Channel.”

Prior to joining PBS, Ms. Kerger served for more than a decade at Educational Broadcasting Corporation (EBC), the parent company of Thirteen/WNET and WLIW21 New York, where her ultimate position was executive vice president and chief operating officer. Her tenure boasts many achievements, including WNET’s completion in 1997 of the largest successful endowment campaign ever undertaken by a public television station.

Ms. Kerger received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Baltimore, where she serves on the Merrick School of Business Dean’s Advisory Council. She has received honorary doctorates from Washington University in St. Louis and Grand Valley State University.  She is a director of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences and is Vice Chair of the board of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History.

Ms. Kerger and her husband Joseph Kerger live in Round Hill, VA.

Paula Apsell, NOVA Paula Apsell, NOVA

Paula S. Apsell got her start in broadcasting at WGBH Boston, where she was hired fresh out of Brandeis University to type the public broadcaster's daily television program logs-a job that Apsell notes is now, mercifully, automated. Within a year, she found her way to WGBH Radio, where she developed the award-winning children's drama series, "The Spider's Web," and later became a radio news producer. In 1975, she joined WGBH's NOVA, a science documentary series that has set the standard for science programming on television, producing documentaries on subjects as varied as artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, and aviation safety. Her NOVA "Death of a Disease" was the first long-form documentary on the worldwide eradication of smallpox.

After leaving NOVA in 1981, Apsell went to WCVB, the ABC affiliate in Boston, known for quality content, as senior producer for medical programming, working with Dr. Timothy Johnson. During that time, she produced "Someone I Once Knew," an award-winning documentary that essentially broke the story on Alzheimer's disease, showing that dementia is a pathology, not an inevitable product of old age. Apsell then spent a year at MIT as a Knight Science Journalism Fellow. In 1985, she was asked to take over the reins at NOVA, where she is now Senior Executive Producer and Director of the WGBH Science Unit. As well as overseeing the production of NOVA documentaries and miniseries for television, she has directed the series' diversification into other media-most notably online, where NOVA is the most-visited site on NOVA can also be found in classrooms nationwide, where it is the most widely used video resource among high school science teachers.

In January 2005, Apsell introduced a NOVA spinoff in NOVA scienceNOW, a critically acclaimed science newsmagazine hosted formerly by Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson and now by New York Times technology columnist David Pogue. Other recent signature NOVA and Science Unit productions include "The Elegant Universe," "Origins," "Einstein's Big Idea," "Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial," "Making Stuff," and the large-format feature "Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure."

Today, NOVA is the most popular science series on American television and online. Under Apsell's leadership, NOVA has won every major broadcasting award, some many times over, including the Emmy, the Peabody, the AAAS Science Journalism Award, and the Gold Baton duPont-Columbia, as well as an Academy Award® nomination for "Special Effects." In 1998, the National Science Board of the National Science Foundation awarded NOVA its first-ever Public Service Award.

Apsell has been recognized with numerous individual awards for her work, including the Bradford Washburn Award from the Museum of Science, Boston; the Carl Sagan Award given by the Council of Scientific Society Presidents; the American Institute of Physics Andrew Gemant Award; the Planetary Society's Cosmos Award; the International Documentary Association's Pioneer Award; the National Space Club of Huntsville Media Award; and the New York Hall of Science Distinguished Service Award for Public Understanding of Science. She has served on the board of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, the Brandeis University Sciences Advisory Committee, and the International Documentary Association. Apsell holds honorary doctorates from Southern Methodist University and Dickinson College.

She lives in Newton, Massachusetts with her husband Sheldon, an inventor. The Apsells have two grown daughters, one a physician, the other a television producer.

Lidia Bastianch, Lidia's KitchenLidia Bastianch, Lidia's Kitchen

Lidia Bastianich is an Emmy award-winning public television host, a best‐selling cookbook author, restaurateur, and owner of a flourishing food and entertainment business. Lidia has married her two passions in life – her family and food, to create multiple culinary endeavors alongside her two children, Joseph and Tanya.

Lidia’s cookbooks, co-authored with her daughter Tanya, include Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, Lidia’s Commonsense Italian Cooking, Lidia’s Favorite Recipes, Lidia’s Italy in America, Lidia Cooks from the Heart of Italy, and Lidia’s Italy—all companion books to the Emmy winning and three time nominated television series Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia’s Italy in America and Lidia’s Italy. Lidia’s series air internationally with territories including Mexico, Canada, Middle East, Croatia and the UK. Lidia has also published Lidia’s Family Table, Lidia’s Italian‐American Kitchen, Lidia’s Italian Table , and La Cucina di Lidia.

Lidia is the chef/owner of four acclaimed New York City restaurants ‐ Felidia, Becco, Esca and Del Posto, as well as Lidia’s Pittsburgh and Lidia’s Kansas City along with her daughter Tanya. She is also founder and president of Tavola Productions, an entertainment company that produces high quality broadcast productions. In 2014, three Tavola productions--Lidia’s Kitchen, Lidia Celebrates America, and Amy Thielen’s Heartland Table on the Food Network--were nominated for a James Beard award. Lidia also has a line of pastas and all natural sauces called LIDIA’S.

Along with her son, Joe Bastianich, Mario Batali, and Oscar Farinetti, the team opened Eataly, the largest artisanal Italian food and wine marketplace in New York City, Chicago and Sao Paolo, Brazil. A second New York location, along with marketplaces in Boston and Los Angeles, will open in 2016.

Lidia’s first children’s book, Nonna Tell Me a Story: Lidia’s Christmas Kitchen, was inspired by her five grandchildren. The second installation in the series, Lidia’s Family Kitchen: Nonna’s Birthday Surprise, was released in the Spring of 2013, and her third was released in January 2015. Lidia gives freely of her time and knowledge, and is an active member of society who participates in community service activities and special events on behalf of several foundations and public television.

Ralna English, The Lawrence Welk ShowRalna English, The Lawrence Welk Show

Ralna English was raised in Spur, Texas, a "suburb" of Lubbock. She began her professional singing career with a junior high school rock 'n roll band and appeared on local television shows and public events. While attending Texas Tech University, Ralna was chosen to perform at Six Flags Over Texas in Dallas. While there, she was spotted by a record company executive and for the next two-and-a-half-years, Ralna sang jingles during the day and performed six-nights-a-week in nightclubs.

In 1969, Ralna became a national television star on "The Lawrence Welk Show". She's appeared on numerous TV game shows and telethons, the Disney Channel," The Merv Griffin Show", "The Mike Douglas Show" and "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson". In 1987, "The Lawrence Welk Show" went from syndication to public television where it currently is celebrating 50 years on national television.

Ralna has starred with other members from "The Lawrence Welk Show" in 15 national TV specials including "Lawrence Welk: Milestones & Memories", one of the three most-successful fundraising specials ever aired on public television! In March 2003, Ralna starred in "Lawrence Welk: God Bless America", which became the second most-successful Welk TV special on PBS. In March 2005, Ralna also starred in the PBS gospel and inspirational music hit," Lawrence Welk Precious Memories".

Ralna tours from coast-to-coast, performing with symphony orchestras, at civic centers, state fairs, senior expos and in showrooms in Connecticut, Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Reno and Lake Tahoe. She especially enjoyed being the opening act for "Mr. Warmth" Don Rickles, in Las Vegas, and at Merv Griffin's Resorts International in Atlantic City. She has also performed with Doc Severinson at Phoenix Symphony Hall and with Doc and the Tonight Show Band at the Sun Dome. Ralna has also been a popular guest performer in Branson, Missouri.

When not on a stage or in a recording studio, Ralna likes to enjoy time with her daughter, Julie, relax with a good book, or engage in a game of tennis. Because she enjoys giving back some of the blessings that have come her way, her schedule also includes numerous charity appearances, including a performance at the Crystal Cathedral in California. 

Barak Goodman, American ExperienceBarak Goodman, American Experience

Barak Goodman is co-founder of Ark Media and a principal producer, director, and writer with the company. His films for Ark Media have been nominated for an Academy Award and won multiple Emmys and Writers Guild Awards, the DuPont-Columbia, and Peabody Awards, the RFK Journalism Prize, and twice been official selections at the Sundance Film Festival.

He directed a two-hour "American Experience" film on the rise of the militant right during the 1990’s and was director and producer of the six-hour PBS series "Cancer: The Emperor of all Maladies", based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee. Other recent projects Barak has directed, produced, and written include "Makers", the first complete history of the modern women's movement; "Clinton", a four-hour biography of Bill Clinton for "American Experience"; and "My La"i, the story of America's most notorious war crime, also for "American Experience".

Michael Kantor, American MastersMichael Kantor, American Masters

For more than two decades, award-winning filmmaker Michael Kantor has created outstanding arts programs for television. He joined American Masters as the series’ executive producer April 30, 2014.

His most recent PBS documentary series, Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle, hosted by Liev Schreiber, premiered in fall 2013 and was just nominated for an Emmy Award. Random House published the companion book. In January 2013, Kantor’s Peabody Award-winning, 90-minute film, Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy, aired as part of the Great Performances series on PBS. Narrated by Joel Grey, it included performances by Matthew Broderick, Kelli O’Hara, David Hyde Pierce, Marc Shaiman and many other Broadway talents. In 2012, Kantor produced The Thomashefskys: Music and Memories of a Life in the Yiddish Theater with Michael Tilson Thomas, which aired on PBS and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy. Kantor served as executive producer of the 90-minute special Give Me the Banjo, hosted by Steve Martin, and created Make ‘Em Laugh: The Funny Business of America, the critically acclaimed six-part documentary series, hosted by Billy Crystal, that debuted in January 2009. His script for episode four, When I’m Bad, I’m Better: The Groundbreakers, co-authored with Laurence Maslon, was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award. His landmark six-part series Broadway: The American Musical was hosted by Julie Andrews and honored with the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Nonfiction Series in 2005. That same year, he created three hours of DVD extras for 20th Century Fox’s 40th anniversary release of The Sound of Music.

Kantor wrote, directed and produced the award-winning profile American Masters: Quincy Jones: In the Pocket. With Stephen Ives, he co-directed Cornerstone: An Interstate Adventure for HBO, and produced The West (Executive Producer Ken Burns). His 20 years of work in documentaries include projects as varied as EGG: the arts show, Coney Island, The Donner Party, Margaret Sanger and Ric Burns’ New York series. As a writer, Kantor created Lullaby of Broadway: Opening Night on 42nd Street, co-authored the companion books to Broadway (Bulfinch) and Make ‘Em Laugh (Grand Central Publishing) and has published numerous essays and articles. He is president of Almo Inc., a company that distributes The American Film Theatre series, which includes Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance (starring Katharine Hepburn), Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh (Lee Marvin) and Chekhov’s Three Sisters (Laurence Olivier) among its titles. Kantor has served as a Tony nominator and teaches documentary filmmaking at the School for Visual Arts in New York City.

John Maggio, American ExperienceJohn Maggio, American Experience

John Maggio is a principle producer, director and writer with Ark Media.  His work appears regularly on both of PBS's premier series: FRONTLINE and "American Experience", including "Kinsey", "Billy the Kid", "College Inc." and "The Private Life of Bradley Manning". Maggio's films have been honored with the National Emmy Award, Writers Guild Award, an Independent Spirit Award nomination, as well as multiple News and Documentary Emmy Award nominations. His work has premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and has screened at festivals around the world. He recently completed the four-part PBS series "The Italian Americans" in 2015. He is currently writing and directing Bonnie and Clyde and adapting Candace Millard’s New York Times bestselling book "The River of Doubt" for "American Experience". Maggio lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and two boys. 

Mark Samels, American ExperienceMark Samels, American Experience

As executive producer of PBS’s flagship history series, Mark Samels conceives, commissions and oversees all "American Experience" films. Produced by WGBH Boston, "American Experience" is television’s most-watched and longest-running history series, and has been honored with nearly every industry award, including the Peabody, Primetime Emmys, the duPont-Columbia Journalism Award, Writers Guild Awards, and Sundance Film Festival Audience and Grand Jury Awards. In 2015, the series received its ninth Academy Award nomination for the critically acclaimed Last Days in Vietnam.
Samels has overseen more than 120 films, expanding both the breadth of subjects and the filmmaking style embraced by the series, allowing for more contemporary topics and more witness-driven storytelling. Beginning his career as an independent documentary filmmaker, he held production executive positions at public televisions stations in West Virginia and Pennsylvania before joining WGBH. Samels is a founding member of the International Documentary Association and has served as a governor of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin, Samels holds honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from Emerson College and Elizabethtown College.

Atlantic Record Artist Straight No ChaserAtlantic Record Artist Straight No Chaser

If the phrase “male a cappella group” conjures up an image of students in blue blazers, ties, and khakis singing traditional college songs on ivied campuses… think again. Straight No Chaser (SNC) are neither strait-laced nor straight-faced, but neither are they vaudeville-style kitsch. As original member Randy Stine comments, “We take the music very seriously; we just don’t take ourselves too seriously.” In the process, they are reinventing the idea of a cappella on the modern pop landscape.

Originally formed over a dozen years ago while students together at Indiana University, the group has reassembled and reemerged as a phenomenon - with a massive fanbase, more than 20 million views on YouTube, numerous national TV appearances, and proven success with two holiday releases, 2008’s HOLIDAY SPIRITS and 2009’s CHRISTMAS CHEERS as well as WITH A TWIST, released this spring. In an era when so much pop music is the product of digital processing and vocal pro-tooling, Straight No Chaser is the real deal - the captivating sound of ten unadulterated human voices coming together to make extraordinary music that is moving people in a fundamental sense… and with a sense of humor.

On the road, Straight No Chaser has built a reputation as an unforgettable live act. By the end of 2010, the group will have sold more than 225,000 tickets to 160 shows, more than half of which sold out in advance. Over the summer, the group held a hugely successful residency at Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City, where they performed 40 shows in 8 weeks. Although the constant traveling takes its toll, the members of SNC maintain that every night, the direct connection with their fans reinvigorates them.

When the founders began graduating in 1999 and went on to jobs mostly outside of music, they chose replacements and established SNC as an ongoing group on campus with future generations of ambitious IU undergrads. More than 50 members have passed through the group's ranks so far. Such was the impact SNC made at IU that the school hosted a 10th anniversary reunion show for the original lineup in 2006, and when Stine posted clips from a 1998 concert on YouTube, SNC's fan base grew exponentially. In 2007 alone, the group's version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" was viewed more than seven million times. Today that number has surpassed 11 million, and the group’s cumulative YouTube views clock in at more than 25 million.

Among those viewers was Atlantic Chairman/CEO Craig Kallman, who found SNC's music "brilliant, fresh and totally compelling." Kallman e-mailed Stine, who initially thought it was a prank but thought otherwise when he was whisked to Los Angeles to meet with the label chief. A few days later, the entire group was in New York City to sign its recording deal. The current incarnation of SNC includes later members of the group, including Michael Luginbill, Seggie Isho, Don Nottingham, and Tyler Trepp. "A music career was definitely not on my radar; getting the guys back together, not just for someone’s wedding or bachelor party, but to spend the majority of the year together touring and recording, is a dream come true." Stine says. "I pinch myself all the time and hope it continues and becomes a longstanding career."

Inform. Inspire. Educate. Entertain.


Friday, October 21, 2016 | 11:30am
The Infinity Ballroom, 50th Floor, Devon Energy Center

Lidia Bastianich, Host of Lidia's KitchenLidia Bastianch, Host of Lidia's KitchenMichael Heintz