Joe Berman Headshot

Former Dean and Professor has a Magical History with WOUB

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Joe Berman retired from Ohio University in 2002

ATHENS, OH – Dr. Joe Berman’s relationship with WOUB Public Media is one that is historic in nature and deeply meaningful. Berman first worked at WOUB when he was a graduate student at Ohio University in the mid-1960s, producing and directing a nationally-syndicated children’s show produced by WOUB which appeared on more than 70 television stations, and then again later as a professional staff member, serving as the director of engineering, operations and production in the early 1990s.

“WOUB means an awful lot to the university,” said Berman. “It does so much for students, giving them the ability to gain professional experience. And personally, it means a lot to me.”

Berman came to Athens in 1964 as a graduate student in the radio and television program. Since he had some prior experience working in the broadcast industry, Berman got involved with the Merlin the Magician show at WOUB as floor manager. At one point, Berman mentioned to the show’s host, Bob Faulkner, that he also had a background as a magician.

Merlin the Magician scene
Woman floating above Merlin the Magician

“At first he just looked at me, standing there for a second or two and said, ‘What have you done?’ I responded telling him that I had been doing magic since I was eight years old,” said Berman. “We went out for lunch and discussed some of the challenges with doing magic on television, such as close ups and angles. After that, I became director of the show.”

Berman said Faulkner needed someone who understood how magic worked to help create the illusion on television. Eventually, Berman even got a recurring role on the program.

“I played a pantomime character in the show,” said Berman. “By the end of second year, I was asked to serve as producer and director of the show.”

The program was accepted by educational television for distribution around the United States before the creation of PBS (Public Broadcasting Service).

Merlin the Magician with Berman
Berman (left) staring at crystal ball with Merlin the Magician

“The distribution was something very prideful for the university and WOUB,” said Berman. “It was a lot of work, but great fun.  Many students worked on the program. They all got great experience and left with a lot.”

Berman graduated in 1968 with his doctorate and accepted a teaching position at the University of Kentucky. But, after a few years there, he was looking to move on, and that’s when he got the call in 1972 to come back and teach at Ohio University in the School of Telecommunications.

“It felt like a good fit for me, and I was excited to come back,” said Berman. “During that time, I became the Telecommunication School liaison to WOUB.”

In the early 1980s, Berman started getting interested more in the technical side of communications. He went on sabbatical for a year in California and came back with a plan to develop what is now called the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies.

After leaving Ohio University for a  couple of years, Berman was hired as the director of engineering, operations and production at WOUB in 1993. He served in that role for two years before returning to teaching and eventually becoming the dean of the Honors Tutorial College. Berman retired in 2002.