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On any given day in 1953, Ron Hull could be found in the gym at Oklahoma's Fort Sill handing out athletic equipment to his fellow service members.

Everyone knew where to find Hull, including an officer who had a proposal for him.

The general at Fort Still had sent the officer to look for someone to produce a 30-minute TV show on the men and women at the base. The only issue was that nobody there knew much about television at the time. Oklahoma's first TV station didn't flash on until 1949.

But Hull had some prior experience in theater and drama, which officers believed made him a decent candidate for the job.

He didn’t even own a TV at the time, but Hull was interested, and he was up for the challenge.

He might not have known it then, but that moment was the beginning of a career in broadcasting that now approaches 70 years and has included stops in Vietnam, Washington, D.C., and decades at Nebraska Public Media.

Now 91, Hull continues to share his wisdom as a senior adviser for Nebraska Public Media, the new name for Nebraska Educational Telecommunications.

Hull, whose career included teaching broadcasting classes, was honored last month with the Frank Blythe Award for Media Excellence, an honor marking his work to empower Native storytellers in public media.

That work all goes back to 1953, when he took that sergeant's suggestion and went to the base’s library and found a book that explained the process of script writing.

“On the left-hand side is what you see, the camera movements," Hull said. "On the right-hand side is what you hear, the dialogue.”

Once he figured out script writing, he found a woman to sing, a band to play and a soldier to interview. Now he just needed to figure out how to work a camera.

Eventually he got the hang of that, too, and during his time at Fort Sill, Hull produced and hosted 93 half-hour shows for KSWO-TV in Lawton, Oklahoma, showcasing the men and women of the base.

"It combined everything that I was interested in," Hull said. "The music, drama, singers and working with interesting people. I just had a wonderful time, and I thought, well maybe I can do this for a living."

When Hull was drafted for the Korean War soon after he graduated from the University of the Pacific in 1952, he thought he'd be a foot soldier after completing basic training. But by the time he was done the U.S. government was no longer sending many troops overseas.

Although his time at Fort Sill wasn’t what he’d imagined, it gave him his start in broadcasting, and through the G.I. Bill, he was able to get his master's from Syracuse University in 1955.

At Syracuse, he learned every aspect of camera and audio work, and was able to direct and produce programming for a local TV station. 

There, Hull was able to achieve a goal of his, which was to meet individuals from all over the world through interviews with international students for the station.

He returned to his hometown of Rapid City, South Dakota, after graduating, but embarked again five months later on a Greyhound bus, resume in hand.

His job search took him through Colorado, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, then back to the Midwest, through Chicago and eventually a final stop in Lincoln.

After meeting with the general manager of the public television station in Lincoln, he knew it was the place for him.

Like many other aspiring broadcasters, his goal was to make his way to CBS or NBC in California. But as he got busy building his career here, he didn’t think much more about that.

He had many chances to leave Lincoln, but didn’t take one until 1966, when he decided to go into the U.S. Foreign Service. He was supposed to be sent to Tokyo to serve as a cultural affairs officer, but ended up going to Vietnam after the U.S. government decided to introduce television there.

During his time there, Hull built a TV network from the ground up, training the production crew members and helping them get started with everything they needed to produce their shows.

“I truly enjoyed the Vietnamese people that I worked with and I enjoyed helping build that TV network,” Hull said.

More opportunities like those arose for Hull.

He worked in Washington for nearly seven years from 1981 to 1988 as the program fund director for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

But Hull returned again to Nebraska, where he's responsible for many firsts in broadcasting and teaching.

Hull helped establish the eighth educational television station in the United States and the first in Nebraska, working to launch and grow KUON-TV at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Later on, he became the first professor from Nebraska who taught international broadcasting. He was able to do so with the help of the Fulbright Program, which took him to Taipei, Taiwan, to teach at Cheng Chi University.

Today, he works eight hours a day at Nebraska Public Media, helping to raise money and bring in talented people from all over the world through his long list of contacts.

“It’s not about the money with him; that’s not why he has worked in broadcasting at all. It’s the joy he gets through his work,” says longtime friend and fellow broadcaster Rod Bates.

Hull has won numerous awards during his career, including the Sower Award in 2000, the Nebraskaland Pioneer Award in 2009 and Nebraska Builder Award in 2014.

His greatest reward, though, has been telling the stories of thousands of people over the years, including his own.

“Everybody has a great story — everybody," he says. "Well, that’s the business we’re in. Tell stories to inspire people, to educate people and to help people.”

Reach the writer at emejia@journalstar.com

This article originally ran on journalstar.com.

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