Frederick Breitenfeld

Obituary of Frederick Breitenfeld

Dr. Frederick "Rick" Breitenfeld, Jr., a lifelong educator, died on September 28th after a long illness. He was 87. He was the loving husband of Mary Ellen (Fitzgerald) Breitenfeld for 44 years, until her death in 1998, and for many years the devoted partner of the late Nedra Clay Sanderson. Born September 26, 1931 in New York City and raised in New Rochelle, NY, Rick was the son of the late Frederick and Dorothy (Falk) Breitenfeld and brother of the late Ruth Breitenfeld Barton. He was a resident of Solebury Township, and formerly of Lower Makefield Township.

He was founding CEO of Maryland Public Television, serving there for 17 years, during which time MPT developed the popular PBS series, Wall $treet Week. In 1983 he moved to the presidency of WHYY in Philadelphia, where he served until his retirement in 1997. He was a trustee of the Valley Forge Military Academy and College, Bucks County Community College, and the Bucks County Foundation. Previously, he was a trustee of the National Board of Medical Examiners and for many years a trustee of Thomas Jefferson University.

Rick was founding Co-Chairman of the National University Consortium for Telecommunications in Teaching as well as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Eastern Educational Network -- a collection of public television stations in the northeast -- and founding chairman of the American Program Service, which provided programming to the country's public television stations.

Rick attended public schools and earned a B.S. in engineering and a Master's degree in education, both from Tufts University, under a full U.S. Navy scholarship, and went on to serve as a naval aviator from 1954 until 1958. After release from the Navy, he taught high school Physics and Chemistry in upstate New York. Later, he earned an M.S. in radio-television at Syracuse University, under a Ford Foundation grant, and was appointed an Acting Dean there while still a graduate student earning his Ph.D. Over the years, he was also awarded honorary doctorates at the University of Maryland, Salisbury State College, Wesley College, and the Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science.

He served as a Resident Consultant at Cape Canaveral in 1963-64, and then moved to Washington D.C., as a researcher at the National Association of Educational Broadcasters. He was Project Director for an initiative funded by the U.S. Office of Education titled, "The Long Range Funding of Educational Television," and was part of the lobbying effort that saw to the passage of the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. He was appointed later to a Federal Communications Commission Task Force on the Funding of Public Broadcasting.

Rick was a Visiting Professor at the Johns Hopkins University for several years, and also taught both undergraduate and graduate students as an adjunct faculty member at the Catholic University of America, the American University, Loyola College in Baltimore, Towson State University, and others. He lectured at a number of institutions, including the FBI Academy and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory. His essays, articles, and editorials were published in the Saturday Evening Post, TV Guide, the American School Board Journal, the Columbia Journalism Review, and other publications.

A performer at heart who loved to entertain, Rick was a member of the American Federation of Musicians, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Screen Actors Guild. His credits include character roles in government and industrial training films, a role in the NBC series, "Movin' On," an appearance in a CBS documentary as a stand-up comic, a comedy monologue in the feature film "Polyester," and roles in HBO's "The Wire" and "Hack" on CBS. He also performed as a character actor in local Bucks County theatre productions.

Rick is survived by two daughters -- Ann Langtry (Timothy), of Lower Makefield, PA and Kathleen (Jonathan) of New York City, as well as two grandchildren, Maggie (Andrew) and Rob (Caitlin). The family wishes to express sincere thanks and love to Nedra's children, Shannon and Clay, and their families. Rick was also a "favorite uncle" to many surviving nieces and nephews. Services will be private. A celebration of Rick's life will be held at a later date. In lieu of flowers, contributions in Rick's name may be made to the charity of the donor's choice.