Nathan Shaw, DEI founding president, dies at 76

By Andrew Lapin

Nathan Shaw, the founding president of DEI (formerly Development Exchange, Inc.) and a public radio fundraising pioneer, died May 29. He was 76.

Shaw first made a name for himself as g.m. of Philadelphia’s WHYY in 1967 (then WUHY). CPB recruited Shaw in 1974 to become its Station Development Manager, a position in which he developed fundraising strategies with stations across the country.

He founded DEI with Nel Jackson and Nina Kern in 1982, looking for a new approach to public radio fundraising after CPB discontinued its Station Development unit. DEI has since become the premier fundraising organization for public radio, and its annual Public Media Development and Marketing Conference is the profession’s biggest event of the year.

“Excellence doesn’t exist in a vacuum,” Shaw said during a 1985 DEI workshop presentation. “It must be tested, compared, supported, fought for . . . and improved. It must be constantly shared with your peers in the public radio development field and refreshed by the experiences and examples of those from outside.”

“As much as his total commitment to public radio, I remember Nate for his sincere caring,” Virginia Dambach, executive director of DEI’s direct marketing service, told Current. “When I was seven months pregnant and as big as a house, I was bemoaning my condition and wondering aloud if I’d ever have another child. Nate, an only child himself, urged me sincerely to at least have one more — so that when my husband and I passed on, my children would have each other for consolation. Understanding the pain he felt in facing that devastating event by himself was enough to convince me he was right.”

NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamberg, a longtime friend of Shaw’s, first worked with him in 1963 when he was the program director at Washington, D.C.’s WAMU. “He was the person who taught me radio,” she told Current. “He would talk for hours about programming, about the pace of listeners’ lives, and the need to program the station to mesh with that pace. . . . Anyone who knew him can never forget him.”

A portion of July’s PMDMC in Atlanta will be set aside for a remembrance of Shaw.

Please send obituary notices to lapin@current.org

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