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Second time was a charm for Rick Wagar

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Wagar graduated from Ohio University in 1978

ATHENS, OH – Rick Wagar’s Ohio University story has a false start, then a restart, with an ending that contains a strong passion for television inspired at WOUB Public Media.

“I grew up in the Toledo area and had done work in theatre in high school, so I planned to be a theatre major,” said Wagar. “Ohio University and Wayne State had highly respected theatre departments at the time, and I was considering both schools. My dad reminded me that Ohio University was 30 minutes from the Hocking Hills, where he had taken me hiking as a child, and that made me more interested in Ohio University. Then, I visited campus and fell in love.”

But all did not go according to plan. Wagar became “disenchanted” as a theatre major and after four quarters, dropped out of college.

“After I dropped out, I got married to my college sweetheart. She wanted to pursue a master’s degree in ecological studies at Ohio University, so we went back to Athens in 1973.  In 1974, I decided to re-enroll this time as a radio/TV major.”

“I eventually was offered a work study position at WOUB doing staging and lighting,” said Wagar. “And I loved it! It fit all of my interests. We lived on campus, so I was there all of time, even during breaks. I had really great mentors and worked my way up to director. I spent time picking the brain of the program manager and learned all about PBS programming. I loved it so much.”

Wagar worked as a paid student staff member over winter and summer breaks and became a valued member of the WOUB team. After graduation in 1978, Wagar had a hard time finding a television job at first. But a WOUB connection came through for him.

“One of the professional staff members at WOUB had gone to work in Memphis, Tennessee as an assistant chief engineer. He told me they needed a master control operator,” said Wagar. “He called me on a Monday, and I was on a plane by Wednesday.”

Wagar spent two and half years at WPTY in Memphis and during that time moved into producer/director and production manager roles.

Then he accepted an operations manager position at WKID in Hollywood, Florida where he paid the WOUB job connection forward.

“I hired a fellow WOUBer, Bruce Dunn,” said Wagar.

After about a year and a half in Florida, Wagar landed a production manager position at WISH in Indianapolis and spent time learning from his supervisor how to be a program manager, which was the job he wanted to have. Eight months later, Wagar was hired at WANE TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana as a program manager.

“I really enjoyed that job,” said Wagar. “I moved around a lot to find better jobs or move up. I used to tell people that I was a broadcast gypsy. It was a good career. I liked what I did.”

After Fort Wayne, Wagar worked in Lansing, Michigan before deciding to leave television.

“I got burned out. I decided to go in a different direction and sell real estate. However, that was a huge mistake.”

So, Wagar went back to TV. He accepted a job as an engineer/camera operator at WKRC in Cincinnati and over the years worked his way up to become a production manager and then eventually program director.

“After 20 years at WKRC, I left broadcasting to pursue my master’s degree in communication. After graduation, I served as an adjunct professor at Northern Kentucky University, teaching courses in communication, media literacy and television programming.”

“Over the years I can’t tell you how many times, I looked at my employees and said, ‘When I was in college at WOUB, this is what we did, and this is what we are going to do now,’” said Wagar. “The experience I got there, literally working every day in television as a student, there is no way to express the kinds of experience you gain and how well it prepares you for a career.”