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Rhea G. Sikes papers

 Collection 0133-MMC

Rhea Gaynelle Sikes (1922-2019) was an educator and television producer, professionally active from 1957 through 1980. Sikes specialized in instructional television programming for adults and children during her tenure at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), including programs for local stations WQED and WNET (PBS). The collection includes photographs of Rhea Sikes, internal reports and publications on educational programming, and her independent consulting work between 1978 and 1980.


  • circa 1957-1980

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to the public and must be used in the Special Collections reading room. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies or digital surrogates may be provided in accordance with Special Collections and University Archives duplication policy.

Copyright resides with the creators of the documents or their heirs unless otherwise specified. It is the researcher's responsibility to secure permission to publish materials from the appropriate copyright holder.

Archival materials may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal and/or state right to privacy laws or other regulations. While we make a good faith effort to identify and remove such materials, some may be missed during our processing. If a researcher finds sensitive personal information in a collection, please bring it to the attention of the reading room staff.


6.00 Linear Feet (4 record storage containers)

Content Description

Rhea Sikes was an educator and producer who specialized in instructional television programming during her twenty-five years in educational television. This accession consists of internal photographs, reports, publications, and publications relating to Sikes' career at the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and indepedent consulting as a producer ofproducing adult and children's educational television programs.

Biographical / Historical

Rhea Sikes was an educator and producer who specialized in instructional programming during her twenty-five years in educational television. She joined the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) in 1973 as the first coordinator of educations services. Representing the PBS Programming Department and member PBS stations, Sikes directed the review, evaluation, and coordination of informational and educational programming presented to both general and classroom audiences.

Prior to joining PBS, Sikes was director of educational services for WQED in Pittsburgh, PA. Established on April 1, 1954, WQED was the first community-sponsored television station in the United States as well as the fifth public television station. Sikes served as assistant program manager, producer, and executive producer for educational programming. When WQED also became the first station to telecast classes to elementary school classrooms, she produced the first programs for the Metropolitan School Service in 1955. She supervised the growth of WQED's instructional television service for many years. At the same time, she participated in the planning and encouragement of instructional television in Pennsylvania and in the wider Eastern Educational Network.

A graduate of the University of North Carolina Women's College (now UNC-Greensboro), Sikes received her master's degree in television from Syracuse University in 1954. She worked for WFMY-TV in Greensboro, NC – a commercial station and CBS affiliate – before joining WQED. In her early career, she travelled extensively throughout the United States presenting visual educational programs for the Good Teeth Council.

Sikes received a George Peabody Award for television education in 1971. In that same year she also received the Corporation for Public Broadcasting Community Service Award. In 1974, she received a citation for contributions to the advancement of education from the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Sikes left PBS in 1978 to become an independent consultant.


This collection is arranged in the following four series by subject:

Series 1
Pittsburgh Metropolitan Station Reports, Federal Funding Research, and Personal Correspondence
Series 2
Instructional and Educational Television Plans and Reports
Series 3
PBS Programs and Independent Research
Series 4
Conference Proceedings, Technical Reports, and Magazines

Custodial History

Betty Shellswick, who maintained Rhea Sikes' papers after Sikes' passing, prepared the materials for delivery to the University Libraries. Carol Meyer resided in the house where the materials were housed and donated this collection to the University of Maryland Libraries on November 28, 2017.

Related Materials

Supplementing the Rhea G. Sikes papers, The National Public Broadcasting Archive collection also includes an oral history interview transcript with Sikes in the Jim Robertson Papers and an interview tape in the Robert D.B. Carlisle papers.

The Robertson interview concerns metropolitan uses of instructional television. The interview, conducted on August 3, 1981, covers many aspects of instructional television, both in the Pittsburgh region and generally. Regarding Pittsburgh, Sikes talks about the early years of educational television at WQED and her role in setting up the instructional television service's organizational structure in the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Ohio), and her work with teachers and school curriculum committees in scheduling programs.

The Carlisle interview was recorded for Carlisle's Patterns of Performance: Public Broadcasting and Education 1974-1976 concerning the use of media in education. The interview with Rhea Sikes was taken on July 21, 1975 when she was the Coordinator of Educational Services for RBC.

Processing Information

This collection has been minimally processed. Aside from some rough groupings of similar material, the collection came to the Libraries in no particular order. The processing archivist loosely arranged files into separate series, however, there is overlap among the series. In most cases, materials have not been grouped chronologically. The original folders were replaced with acid-free folders. Photographs were separated from non-photographic materials.

Guide to the Rhea G. Sikes papers
Jen Wachtel
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English

Revision Statements

  • 2021-08-13: Jim Baxter re-wrote the collection abstract.

Library Details

Part of the Special Collections and University Archives

University of Maryland Libraries
Hornbake Library
4130 Campus Drive
College Park Maryland 20742