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Jon Abbott '80

Jon Abbott is a media and social enterprise leader who recently stepped down after fifteen years as President & CEO of WGBH, PBS’s largest producing studio and the nation’s largest community-based public media organization. He’s now “rewiring” after moving with his wife, Shari Malyn, to Los Angeles.

  1. Favorite Collegiate Faculty Member?

    Dr. James (Jim) Shields. Easy. After surviving his Freshman English class, and the green pen he used (heavily) to give notes, I realized how much I could learn from him. He “saw” me and taught me that I’d get out of class what I was willing to put in. And he really helped me with my writing. So, I took every elective I could with him through my Collegiate years.  (I repeated this in college when I found a special Political Science professor, took all her courses, and had her as my thesis advisor). Dr. Shields was tough and demanding, but what a reward. Years later we’d run into each other in bookstores on the Upper West Side and he teased me time and again (without the green pen).
  2. Favorite Class at Collegiate?

    Existentialism with David Trower.  I still can’t believe I had the opportunity to take this class.  And Mr. Trower was simply phenomenal. It was easily college level material but what a gift to be able to push oneself; and everyone in the class really invested themselves. If you took this course, you sure buckled in and rode. At that time members of my family faced medical issues and uncertainty.  And I was dealing with much of it on my own.  It was here when I finally put my head around mortality in a constructive way. The class had an outsized impact on me both in school and in life.
  3. One Thing I Wish I’d Done Differently at Collegiate?

    While I had a lot of fun with JV Baseball, I would have scrapped Spring sports altogether by Junior year and just focused on music. Collegiate’s Music department was small, but the teachers were dedicated. I should have followed my true passion. If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have passed up putting in the time with music. Fortunately, I rebooted in College.
  4. One thing I Wouldn’t Have Done Differently at Collegiate?

    I’m still very happy I included the wonderfully unflattering mid-year student evaluation comment from my sophomore chemistry teacher on my senior yearbook page. Beat any other ”quotations” I could imagine citing, and hopefully gave all my classmates a smile as they thought about that class (and my struggles). I was told later that Collegiate no longer lets students include teacher comments as quotes. I hope that’s apocryphal.
  5. One Thing Those Who Knew Me at Collegiate Would Be Surprised to Hear About Me Now?

    As a boy, I sang at Duke Ellington’s funeral. Before coming to Collegiate, I was a chorister at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and helped my parents manage the tuition by singing services six days a week in the Choir. We were always on call when special services were held. I never sang at a more important occasion.