Skip to main content
Use the right side menu to identify relevant boxes and place requests.

Ralph W. Steetle Papers

 Collection 0021-MMC-NPBA

Ralph Waldo Steetle, Sr. (1912-2004) a prime mover in the creation of public television, began working in educational radio at Louisiana State University. There he was director of broadcasting and helped build WLSU (later renamed KLSU), one of the first non-commercial FM radio stations in the south.

He spent ten years in Washington, D.C. as Executive Director of the Joint Council on Educational Television (JCET), under a Ford Foundation grant. JCET served as an advocacy organization that helped get the first 50 public television stations on the air. While at JCET, Steetle worked on the FCC Third Report and Order, issued in 1951. This report tentatively set aside 209 channels, approximately 10 percent of all stations, for educational television. The FCC's Sixth Report and Order, issued in 1952, affirmed the arguments made by JCET for educational stations and expanded the number of reserved channels to 242.

In 1960 Steetle moved to Oregon to become the Associate Dean of Continuing Education and Director of Education Media for the Oregon State System of Higher Education. He capped his professional career developing the Oregon Public Television Network.

The collection chronicles the early history of the Joint Committee on Educational Television and Steetle's involvement in this organization.


  • 1942-1981
  • Majority of material found within 1950-1958

Use and Access to Collection

This collection is open for research use.

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.


2.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Ralph W. Steetle papers cover the years 1942 to 1981 with the bulk of material between 1950 and 1958. The collection chronicles the early history of the Joint Committee on Educational Television, as well as Steetle's involvement in this organization. Types of documents include awards, clippings, correspondence, interviews, minutes, newsletters, notes, publications, reports and speeches.


Ralph W. Steetle was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1912. He grew up in Cleveland, Ohio and attended schools there, graduating from Collinwood High School in 1930. Steetle then enrolled in Cleveland State University's cooperative education plan studying electrical engineering. In 1934, he transferred to Louisiana State University, and graduated in 1936 with a major in radio broadcasting. He continued his studies at Louisiana State, receiving a master's degree in linguistics in 1938. As a graduate fellow, Steetle taught broadcasting and produced university programs on local stations and the state network. During this time, he participated in a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship in the Humanities, in which he interacted with various networks and educational institutions in New York City. After completing his studies, Steetle remained at Louisiana State as the first director of broadcasting in the extension division and as instructor of broadcasting in the Department of Speech.

In 1941, Steetle left Louisiana State University for war service leave to the Department of State in Washington, DC. There, he served as officer in charge of exchange programs in the Division of Cultural Relations, helping to set departmental policy governing production activities of emergency war agencies. Then, from 1942 to 1944, he accepted a commission in the United States Navy, participating in the Navy's Fleet Training Command. Upon conclusion of the war in 1945, Steetle returned to Louisiana State University and helped build WLSU, one of the first educational FM stations in the south. At this time, he also became the regional director of the National Association of Educational Broadcasters.

In 1949, Steetle participated in the Rockefeller-sponsored Allerton House conference on the status and future of educational broadcasting. During this conference, he became interested in the possible reservation of television channels for education. The next year, Steetle went to Washington, DC to attend the first strategy planning session of institutions, organizations, agencies and individuals interested in presenting to the Federal Communications Commission the case for reserving educational television channels. In 1951, Steetle was appointed executive director of the Joint Committee on Educational Television, having been given leave from Louisiana State University. In this capacity, he worked to preserve television channels for educational uses and assisted groups planning to build educational television stations. He remained executive director of JCET for almost ten years.

Upon leaving JCET, Steetle became an active part of Oregon public television. In 1960, he was appointed Associate Dean and Director of Educational Media for the Oregon State System of Higher Education. There he built the state educational network and served as an administrator for higher education with an emphasis on continuing education.

Ralph W. Steetle retired in 1974. He died on May 25, 2004.


The collection is divided into two series:

  1. Series 1: The Joint Council on Educational Television (JCET)
  2. Series 2: Broadcasting Miscellaneous

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Ralph W. Steetle papers were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by Ralph W. Steetle in October and November of 1992, June of 1993 and January of 1995.

Guide to the Ralph W. Steetle papers
Processed by Domenic Morea, February 1994.
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

  • 2007-04-15: EAD markup checked and verified using JEdit software by Karen E. King, April 2007.
  • 2010-01-28: EAD revised by Karen E. King, January 2010
  • 2011-04-29: EAD revised by Karen E. King, April 2011
  • 1995-01: Revised by Karen E. King, January 1995.
  • 2018-12-17: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2021-07-23: 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