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Featured Alum: Forrest 'Frosty' Respess Class of 1948

College of Music's Broadcasting students, circa 1948

The importance of networking and of mastering the latest technology are stressed to E-Media students circa 2009.  And there’s no better example of how those traits can work for you than in the story of 82 year old Forrest “Frosty” Respess, class of 1948.

Frosty got his BFA from our divisional ancestor, the radio department of the old College of Music and wrapped his 60 year career in broadcasting just a few months ago. 

It was what we now call “networking” that kept his career going after a lay off in 1971.  And it was that plus his familiarity with the latest in news technology that resurrected his career after he retired to Florida in 1994.

But let’s take it from the beginning. 

Forrest Respess entered UC as a business major but got the broadcasting “bug” when a young woman he admired told him he had a good voice.2 Forrest heard that the College of Music was offering a degree in radio. So he became part of the first graduating class, the class of 1948.

In those days, television was the brand new technology.

 “We produced the first live dramatic television show west of New York.  It was written by our classmate Earl Hamner and produced in a small studio on the top floor of the Carew Tower. People were lined up outside of appliance stores to see the show. I have a letter from an executive of Crosley Broadcasting telling us 15, 000 people saw the program. “

After graduation, Forrest’s radio career started in Lancaster Ohio but he knew TV was where he wanted to be. After studying TV production and stage management at the American Theater Wing in New York he signed on with WTTV in Indianapolis.  Next stop was WMBD in Peoria, where picked up his nickname, then KMOX, the CBS-owned television station in St. Louis.

“In 1971, the networks lost revenue because cigarette advertising was banned. So lots of people, myself included, were laid off by KMOX.   But I wasn’t unemployed for long.  In Peoria I had known Chuck Harrison who by now was news director at WGN in Chicago. I called him and got a job as a TV news producer and stayed 23 years.”

Frosty and his late wife Nancy moved to Florida in 1994.  He had been there for only three weeks when word of his experience with computerized news systems in Chicago reached a TV station in Orlando.  They needed his help.  Frosty worked part-time with the station, WKMG for 14 years.

As 2008 came to a close, he was part of a group of 30 let go by the station because of the economy. But that doesn’t mean Forrest Respess is playing shuffleboard. 

“I have become very active in community theater in the last four years, have done a couple of films and a few commercials. Professionally, I was in Kiss Me Kate at the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre last fall. Last year, a newspaper reporter referred to me as Central Florida’s 81 year old ingénue.”

Frosty has recently taken seminars in acting for commercials. “You’re never too old to learn,” he said. 

We hope Forrest “Frosty” Respess can return to Cincinnati and visit the E-Media Division and CCM. We know his story will inspire the students of today.

1 The above photo, from Frosty Respess, is from 1948, when the College of Music's broadcast and music students produced a series called On the Wings of Song. Frosty is the floor director, front right. The program was produced for the Crosley television station, W8XCT, the predecessor of WLW television.

2 The young woman was Kathleen (Kay) King. From the 1950s into the 1980s Kay inspired hundreds of young actors including the writer of this article and, a more successful protege, Sarah Jessica Parker. Kay taught drama in the CCM Prep Department for many years. She now makes her home in California.

Written by Marjorie Fox, June 2009