Jennifer Lawson Receives Public Television's Highest Honor, The Ralph Lowell Award, As She Retires
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Jennifer Lawson Receives Public Television's Highest Honor, The Ralph Lowell Award, As She Retires

Jennifer Lawson
Jennifer Lawson

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) has named Jennifer Lawson, CPB’s senior vice president of television production and digital video content and a groundbreaking public television leader, recipient of the 2016 Ralph Lowell Award. The award, given for outstanding achievements in and contributions to public television, was presented today in Chicago by CPB Board Chair Elizabeth Sembler.

Public television’s highest honor, the award is named for the Boston philanthropist, banker and founder of the WGBH Educational Foundation, licensee of WGBH. Since 1971, CPB has awarded the Ralph Lowell Award on behalf of the Lowell family in recognition of outstanding contributions to and achievements in public media.

“Jennifer Lawson has been at the heart of public television for more than 30 years and her leadership has resulted in a stronger, more connected, vibrant public media service – serving every American,” Sembler said. “Jennifer brought to public media a passion for making education accessible to all Americans and contributed groundbreaking leadership that yielded some of public television’s greatest successes.”

An Alabama native and former member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Lawson viewed public television as an extension of her civil rights work as she served as a producer, programmer, station manager, board member and system executive. Her long and distinguished public media career is bookended by work at CPB. She started in 1980 with the Television Program Fund and currently works across the system to develop innovative, diverse, and original television programming and digital video content.

“Jennifer is a true champion for public media – advancing our mission to serve as a valuable resource for teaching and lifelong learning,” said CPB President and CEO Pat Harrison. “Her leadership has mattered in significant ways, especially through her commitment to diversity and inclusion at all levels of public media.”

In 1989, Lawson was named to an unprecedented position at PBS as executive vice president for national programming and promotion. In this role, she developed children’s series including Barney and Friends and Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? and led the scheduling and promotional strategies underpinning two of PBS’ most successful series, Ken Burns’ The Civil War and Baseball.

Lawson went on to produce award-winning films, including the 2001 PBS documentary series AFRICA, in partnership with National Geographic and WNET. She was general manager and CEO of WHUT and chair of the APT board of directors. She also served two terms on the PBS board of directors and was the board vice chair before coming back to CPB in 2011. She is retiring from CPB this month.

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