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Robert D.B. Carlisle papers

 Collection 0027-MMC-NPBA

Robert D.B. Carlisle (1922-2009) was a reporter and bureau chief for Newsweek before working successively for all three television networks as a writer. He started an educational and public broadcasting career when he moved to WNDT (now WNET) in New York during its first year as a public TV station in 1962. He began as a producer and became an Executive Producer before moving on to serve as director of network operations for SUNY's new, central educational communications office. In the spring of 1968, Carlisle was asked to work part-time for the brand-new Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), created by an act of Congress in 1967.

In the fall of 1968, Carlisle resigned from SUNY to become CPB's full-time Director of Special Projects. His work included creating a Career Fellow project and also procedures for Community Service Grants. In early 1970, Carlisle became Director of Educational Projects. In 1971, Carlisle and his staff began to develop the Adult Learning Project Service (ALPS), a project to help adults prepare for the high school equivalency test. After leaving CPB in 1973, Carlisle continued his interest in educational television, publishing five books on media use in education.

The collection documents Carlisle's career at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting as Director of Special Projects, his efforts to create the Adult Learning Program Service (ALPS) as Director of Educational Projects at CPB, his early career as a producer at WNDT in New York City, and includes his various publications and background research.


  • 1962-1987 and undated
  • Majority of material found within 1968-1976

Use and Access to Collection

The 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.


6.25 Linear Feet


Robert D.B. Carlisle attended Deerfield Academy and Princeton University, where he earned a B.A. degree in English literature in 1943, under an accelerated wartime program.

In 1946, after three years in the military, Carlisle began his career as a newspaper reporter for a daily newspaper in Passaic, New Jersey, covering news ranging from police court to urban planning and aviation. This built a firm platform for his move in 1949 to Newsweek. After six months with the magazine, he took the post of Detroit Bureau Chief. Nine months later, he was recalled to active duty as an Army reservist, serving as Assistant Operations Officer of the nation's first strategic propaganda unit in Japan.

From 1954 to 1957, Carlisle worked for all three major TV networks as a writer of TV news and continuity. At ABC, he organized a network series for commentator Quincy Howe. At NBC, he was Associate Producer on the trend-setting series Wide Wide World. After this, he served as Production Supervisor at the country's first videotape studio.

Carlisle moved to WNDT, Channel 13, New York in 1962, its first year as a public TV station. He began as a Producer and then became an Executive Producer. He organized and produced some 400 shows to help fill the demand for broadcast materials, among them: a two-hour show on the Civil War, an in-depth discussion with Branch Rickey, various shows on consumer economics, a complete college-level American history course, and 33 half-hour programs with prominent mythologist Joseph Campbell.

In 1965, he began work for SUNY's (State University of New York) new, central Educational Communications office as first Network Operations Director, then Assistant Vice Chancellor.

In the spring of 1968, while still Assistant Vice Chancellor for Educational Communications for SUNY, Carlisle was asked by Ward B. Chamberlin and Frank Pace to work part-time for the brand new Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), created by an act of Congress in November of 1967. At this point, there were very few people working for CPB, so Carlisle's job was to be the basic staff for Chamberlin--to come up with critiques, analyses, interviews, and project ideas. In the fall of 1968, Carlisle resigned from SUNY to become CPB's full-time Director of Special Projects.

One of his first tasks was to prepare a breakdown of a proposed $2,000,000 budget calling for program production at a number of public broadcasting centers. He also established precedents, such as a "Career Fellow" project for CPB, procedures for making $10,000 "Community Service Grants" to all public licensees, and a coordination of $50,000 production grants to competing public TV stations.

In early 1970, Carlisle was moved to Director of Educational Projects, as part of staff readjustment that began in 1969 with the hiring of a president for CPB, John W. Macy. Congress had wanted CPB to do something about education, but that goal had been swallowed up by the larger projects of forming and starting Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) and National Public Radio (NPR).

In June 1971, Carlisle and his education staff began to develop a project to help adults prepare for the high school equivalency test. Initially called GED (General Educational Development), the project came to be called the Adult Learning Project Service (ALPS). It consisted of three phases: Phase I, staff survey; Phase II, market audience survey; and Phase III, curriculum design. ALPS included working with educators, commissioning more than 100 papers, making extensive analyses of audience demographics, producing five TV pilots, ten audiotape capsules, and one motivational film.

However, by November of 1972, the new administration of CPB decided that ALPS was not as high a priority as before. Henry Loomis, the new president, decided to end the project, asking Carlisle to write a final report. On March 16, 1973, Carlisle turned in "The ALPS Story: A Final Report. January 1971 to November 1972".

After leaving CPB in 1973, Carlisle continued his interest in educational television, publishing five books on the uses of media in education. He wrote and researched Media and the Adult Student: One Man's Journal, published in 1976, about media applications in adult-level education. CPB commissioned Carlisle to expand its educational activities by writing a panoramic appraisal of public broadcasting's uses in education, resulting in Patterns of Performance: Public Broadcasting and Education, published in 1978.

Carlisle also returned to school to get his M.A. in Public Media Arts from Montclair State College in 1977, writing his master's thesis on "The University of Mid-America: A Brave New Experiment in Open Learning." Other publications include: Video: At Work in American Schools, published in 1987, nine institutional histories, and seven narrative poems. His most recent work, a 20th century history of the seaside village of Chatham, Massachusetts was published in July 2000.


Organized as three series:

  1. Series 1: Corporation for Public Broadcasting
  2. Series 2: WNDT Scripts
  3. Series 3: Professional Writings

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Robert D.B. Carlisle papers were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by Robert D.B. Carlisle in four installments: November 1992, November 1998, April 1999, and May 1999.

Guide to the Robert D.B. Carlisle papers
Processed by Elizabeth Borja, April 2000.
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 created using EAD database in Microsoft Access. Markup completed by Karen E. King.
  • 2007-06-27: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2017-10-31: Finding aid reviewed by Rebecca Thayer
  • 2018-12-19: 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