Donley F. Feddersen was born in Clinton, Iowa in 1915. He attended Niobrara High School in Niobrara, Nebraska, and earned his diploma there in 1931. He went on to receive his AB in 1937 from Wayne State Teachers College in Wayne, Nebraska, where he majored in Education and English. From 1937 to 1941 he was employed by the Norfolk High School in Nebraska. Feddersen also attended Northwestern University in Illinois where he completed a Masters degree in Theatre and Interpretation in 1942. He continued at Northwestern working towards a Doctorate while also being employed as a Teaching Assistant there. Although he completed his Doctoral course work in 1944, he was unable to complete his dissertation because of an offer of a permanent position on the faculty at Northwestern.
Feddersen began his career in public broadcasting as an instructor at Northwestern University in 1944. By 1954 he had advanced to the rank of Professor. From the years 1945 to 1947 he was the Director of The Northwestern University Reviewing Stand, a program that was produced by the University for broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System. In 1947 he became Chairman of the Department of Radio-Television-Film, a post which he held until 1956. During this time he also served as Director of the NBC-Northwestern Radio-Television Institute. In 1950 he was named to the Broadcast Advisory Committee of the United States Information Agency. At that time he was the only member appointed from the field of educational broadcasting.
During the years 1952 to 1956, Feddersen also directed and moderated the public affairs discussion program, Chicago Forum of the Air. In 1953, the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations cited this program as the winner of its annual award for the local radio series which had contributed the most to the promotion of world understanding.
In addition to his teaching and broadcasting duties Feddersen also found the time to write. In 1955 his book, The Egghead and the Others was published. Sydney Head, in Broadcasting in America: A Survey of Television and Radio, described Feddersen's work as,"a gem of satire," and goes on to say that, "the whole catalogue of prejudices betrayed by the intellectual snob when faced with the monstrous advent of television has been neatly exposed by Donley Feddersen."
Beginning in 1956, Feddersen decided to devote all of his creative energies solely to the design and production or production supervision of programs and program series for "publication" via national educational television. In this year, Northwestern University granted him a leave of absence so he could accept a short term assignment as Program Associate with the Educational Television and Radio Center, then located in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While there he became the NET liaison and consultant to NBC at the beginning of the NBC-NET Educational Television Project. During the year of his tenure more than 100 programs were telecast nationally. After his eighteen month tour of duty with NET, he returned to his teaching duties at Northwestern in January of 1958.
In June of 1958 Feddersen was offered a position at WTTW, Chicago's educational television station, with the understanding that he could continue his work at Northwestern University on a reduced load basis. He began his work at Chicago Educational Television as Northwestern University's representative on the Educational Advisory Committee, a group which laid the groundwork for the establishment of the station. In 1958 he held the position of Program Consultant and in only four months he was named the Program Manager. In 1959 he became the Director of Special Projects and had the principal responsibility of designing and producing program series intended for national distribution through NET. While working for WTTW, Feddersen was responsible for more than 50 programs which were accepted by NET for national distribution. Some of these include: American Memoir with John Dodds (American Culture since 1900); The Big Count with Philip Hauser (The Story of the 1960 Census); Meeting of Minds (Discussions between Russian and American educators); America Looks Abroad with Carter Davidson (Foreign Policy processes and issues): Beginnings (Interviews with distinguished Americans); Fact and Fancy with Rita Criste (Creative Dramatics for youngsters); Children Growing with Maria Piers (Guidance for parents); and many others.
In September of 1960, Feddersen, resigning from his positions at Northwestern and Chicago Educational Television, became Director of Television Programming at the National Educational Television and Radio Center which had moved to New York. In this post he was responsible for the design of the NET program schedule and for the activities of the six Program Associates and six assistants and secretaries who had comprised the operational force of the NET Program Department. He was also responsible for the planning, selection and production supervision of the 520 half hours of program material which NET supplied annually to over 70 affiliated non-commercial etv stations.
In 1964 Feddersen left NET to take a temporary position at the University of Florida. In 1965 he accepted a permanent position at Indiana University. His titles were Chairman of the Department of Radio and TV in the College of Arts and Sciences and Director of Radio and TV Services for Indiana University and General Manager and Director for station WTIU when it went on the air. He was responsible for developing a PhD program for the academic department, as well as completing the application for licensing and equipping and hiring personnel for the new TV station. When he had fulfilled his responsibilities to the academic department he resigned his chairmanship and devoted his full energies to the work connected with the station. This was the position he held until his death in April, 1979.
Donley Feddersen was the husband of Frances R. Feddersen and the father of four children. He was noted and admired among his colleagues as a man who held strong principles when it came to supporting high standards and excellence in public broadcasting.