Chuck Furman, founding program manager of WGVU, dies at 73

By Andrew Lapin

WGVU employees thought of Furman as their "Mr. Rogers." (Photo: University Communications/Grand Valley State University)

WGVU employees thought of Furman as their “Mr. Rogers.” (Photo: University Communications, Grand Valley State University)

Chuck Furman, who helped launch WGVU-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich., and served as its assistant g.m. in charge of community relations for 25 years, died May 16. He was 73. No cause of death was disclosed.

Furman joined WGVU, then WGVC, in 1972, the year of its founding. He served as the station’s first program manager before being promoted to his community-relations role in 1980. Before moving to Grand Rapids, Furman worked at WBGU in Bowling Green, Ohio, serving at various times as production manager, operations manager, program manager and acting g.m. He retired from WGVU in 2005.

While at the station, Furman helped oversee transitions to digital and high-definition broadcasting and represented the station at meetings of service organizations and other community gatherings.

“He was really the voice and the face of the station,” said WGVU General Manager Michael Walenta. “He was out there when we were going to digital. He was out there with his big flatscreen telling everybody what digital TV was about.”

Furman’s generous personality also set him apart, Walenta said. Furman once signed U.S. government paperwork to allow the mother of a Bosnian employee to come to the country for the daughter’s wedding.

“He really was our Fred Rogers,” he said. “He had that attitude, he embodied that spirit, and he didn’t make that up. That was him. He was one of the last of the true gentlemen.”

Furman was inducted into the Michigan Association of Broadcasters’ Michigan Broadcasting Hall of Fame in 2006.

“Chuck’s selfless dedication to public broadcasting was obvious to viewers and listeners as well as to those in the university community who had the pleasure of working with him,” said Matt McLogan, v.p. for university relations at Grand Valley State University, which holds WGVU’s license.

Furman is survived by his wife Judy and sons David and Daniel. A funeral will be held May 24 in Grand Rapids.

Please send obituary notices to lapin@current.org
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