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Lee C. Frischknecht papers

 Collection 0153-MMC-NPBA

Lee C. Frischknecht (1928-2005), a former president of National Public Radio, spent his professional life in educational and public broadcasting. He began his career at National Educational Television in New York, becoming director of field services in 1964. In 1968, he was hired by Utah State University, where he oversaw the radio and television station. In 1970 Frischknecht joined NPR in Washington, D.C. as the director of network affairs. He was elevated to vice president and became president in 1973, serving until 1980. After leaving NPR in 1978, Frischknecht joined Arizona State University's KAET-TV as education telecommunications manager. He retired in 1993.

The collection documents Frischknecht's work in public broadcasting from his early work with NET through his tenure at NPR and ending with his KAET work.


  • 1953-1993
  • Majority of material found within 1970-1978

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.


19.50 Linear Feet

Scope and Content of Collection

The Lee C. Frischknecht papers cover the years 1953 to 1993, with the bulk of materials dating 1967 to 1985. The papers include publications and reports, correspondence, speeches, subject files, and other materials. The collection documents Frischknecht's work in public broadcasting from his early work with NET in New York City, through his service as Vice President and President of National Public Radio, to his work at Arizona State University's station KAET in the 1980s and early 1990s.


Lee C. Frischknecht was born on January 3, 1928 to Carl and Geniel Frischknecht in Brigham City, Utah. He became interested in radio while a junior high school student, watching the older brother of a neighborhood friend operate a local radio station. After serving in the Army in Japan from 1946 to 1948, Frischknecht enrolled at Utah State University where he joined a radio guild which ran a carrier current station until it was thrown off the air by the FCC for excess radiation.

After receiving a B.S. in Speech and Radio from Utah State in 1951, Frischknecht joined a small commercial radio station in Idaho Falls, where he worked in a variety of announcing functions. While in Idaho, Frischknecht grew interested in television. He decided to return to school to learn more about that medium, choosing Michigan State University (MSU) to pursue his studies, starting his them at East Lansing in 1953. From virtually his arrival in Michigan, Frischknecht worked at Michigan State's television station WKAR-TV, first as a camera man and eventually as General Manager. During that time, he received his Master's Degree in Radio-TV (1957).

Frischknecht's predecessor as General Manager at WKAR, Patrick Callahan, had gone on to work in New York City at National Educational Television (NET). Discouraged by MSU's decision to share time with a commercial station, Frischknecht decided to follow Callahan to New York, becoming NET's Director of Field Services in 1964. NET proved an interesting experience for Frischknecht who coordinated relations with individual stations and aided in organizing the technical side of network operations.

Eventually NET's decision to cut back on station relations in an attempt to concentrate more on programming led to a cut back in Frischknecht's staff. In 1968, an old friend who had become President of Utah State University asked Frischknecht to return west to become Director of University Relations and Special Educational Services. At his alma mater, Frischknecht oversaw the University's radio and television station and became a university liaison to alumni, state agencies, and legislators.

Frischknecht found his work at Utah State stimulating, but the transition from the hustle of New York City back to the slow pace of Logan, Utah was difficult. He was, therefore, open to an offer from Don Quayle, the first President of the newly created National Public Radio (NPR), to return east to Washington, DC and join Quayle's fledgling operation. Joining NPR in 1970 as Director of Network Affairs, Frischknecht performed many of the same functions he had at NET, including station relations and technical support. He coordinated the development of a terrestrial, long-line interconnection system and organized the technology needed by NPR for its programming services. In 1972, Frischknecht rose to NPR Vice President, where his duties included corporate and long-range planning. While Vice President, he prepared the first NPR five-year plan. In 1973, Frischknecht again moved ahead and became President of NPR where most of his efforts were devoted to relations with member stations, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and Congress.

In 1978 Frischknecht left NPR after having served as president for five years. He then spent some time as a consultant to various educational institutions that were putting together telecommunications programs, including the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and the Cleveland Public School System.

After several consulting projects, Frischknecht joined station KAET at Arizona State University in 1980 as the station's Education Telecommunications Manager administering all educational and instructional facets of the station's operations. In 1985, he took over the position of KAET Assistant General Manager, overseeing station planning and the Arizona School Services though Educational Technology (ASSET) program. An important part of this new job was the planning and development of a new FM radio station. Frischknecht retired from KAET in 1993. He was married to the former Sara Jean McCullough and had four daughters.


Organized as eight series:

  1. Series 1: National Public Radio
  2. Series 2: Public Television
  3. Series 3: Arizona Educational Broadcasting
  4. Series 4: Telecommunications Programs
  5. Series 5: Technology
  6. Series 6: Higher Education
  7. Series 7: Public Broadcasting Finances
  8. Series 8: Miscellaneous

Custodial History and Acquisition Information

The Lee C. Frischknecht papers were donated to the National Public Broadcasting Archives, University of Maryland Libraries by Lee C. Frischknecht in July of 1993.

Guide to the Lee C. Frischknecht papers
Processed by Edmund F. Wehrle, August 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.
  • 2008-02-13: EAD revised by Karen E. King.
  • 2017-10-31: Finding aid reviewed and edited by Rebecca Thayer.
  • 2018-12-19: Finding aid reviewed and minor edits made by Duncan Griffin.
  • 2021-08-20: 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