Mike H. Mottler - A Life Still Unfolding

Born and raised in the midwest (central Illinois) , my birth parents (still unknown to me) placed me with Harry and Marjorie Mottler for home and family care at six weeks old because my natural mother was indefinitely hospitalized with TB. My birth mother's health was marginal, so (with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight) she probably shouldn't have become pregnant. Apparently romance triumphed over reason; or, baby Michael was the result of a biological, perhaps hormonal, miscalculation. They published a hometown newspapaer ad for Christian home care of baby Michael with the hope of finding a suitable place for me.

Meanwhile, Harry and Marj had recently and tragically lost their first-born child, Judy Kay Mottler, minutes after birth because of a fatal brain malformation. They responded to the newspaper ad, and the rest, as they say, is history; well, actually biography.

During the two-year period of my living with the Mottlers, I become a part of that family. With agreement of the birth parents, Harry and Marj adopted me as their son. Later, they had two daughters, but I grew up in the family as the older brother.

I attended public elementary school, enrolled in a private, church-related boarding academy, then went on to college. I entered the university with the lofty notion of becoming a doctor or a mechanical engineer. Just the thought of enduring Organic Chemistry turned me away from the life sciences, and Freshman Math wiped out any illusions of entering any field that required mastery of Calculus, Physics, aden Fortran.

Based on the self-surprisng result of an aptitude test, I turned to language arts and became an double major: English
and Speech with the goal of becoming a teacher. I would save the world from dangling particles, split infinitives, and confusion borne of mis-use of 'its' for 'it's' and vice-versa.

My first job was at a private school in California, Monterey Bay Academy near Watsonville; which I learned was the Artichoke Capitol of the World. I taught Freshmen the joy of structural grammar and the elements of rhetoric; Sophomores the craft of essay writing and mastery of spelling; and Seniors the arts of creative writing, journalism, and public speaking.

I left MBA in 1965 for grad school at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. After graduation as an Illini, I put my shiney new M.A. in Speech Communication to work at Andrews University in Michigan - where I spent most of my undergrad years. I joined the faculty of the Speech Communication department where only a few years earlier I had been a student and irreverent humor columnist in the campus newspaper. That defiant reputation, formerly a point of pride in me, was now an embarrassing liability. I explained it as an awkward 'coming of age' incident. The indelible patterns scribbled during a mis-spent youth can be difficult to erase in adulthood.

At AU, I developed a new broadcasting curriculum, founded a campus-limited station (WAUR-AM/640) and subsequently developed the university's FM station from a concept to a broacast service and member of NPR. Non-commerical radio station WAUS-FM is still on the air today.

I left AU after five years. A discouraging divorce broke-up not only the marriage but my connection to the university and its sponsoring church. I had started a Ph.D. program in Radio-TV-Film at Ohio University (Athens, OH) but discovered that for me it was a lot more fun to DO broadcasting than to TEACH it.

Accordingly, my next job was in Jacksonville, FL - putting WJCT-FM on the air as an NPR member station from scratch. It was co-owned by WJCT-TV/7, the PBS station in that city, and I gathered some TV experience as well as continuing to grow as a radio broadcasting executive.

My next job hop was to University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where I earned my Masters' degree years earlier. Part of my grad assistantship task at UofI in those preceding years was producing programs for broadcast on WILL-FM. Now I joined the UfoI staff as Station Manager of both WILL-AM/580 and WILL-FM/91. The landmark stations were members of NPR, and the AM-er had a significant news/info service. Then 30-something, I was a single dad with two teen-age daughters. During this 'Illinois Chapter' of my life I met Carol Wilken Dickenson through involvement with Parents Without Partners. She is now the second Mrs. Mottler (since 1981) . When I 'moved up' to WILL-TV/12 as Station Manager, I began a career shift to The Tube.

Five years later, I joined the administrative team of Ohio State University - home of the Big 10 champions and Coach Woody Hayes - and of WOSU-AM, WOSU-FM, and WOSU-TV/34. I was Station Manager of the TV station, but I soon learned the hottest game in town was football, not public television.

When the station administration changed at OSU, I was ready to move somewhere else. I entered the race for a GM vacancy at KRMA-TV/6 in Denver. I got the job, and Carol and I moved to mile-high country, started skiing for recreation, and hit the road on week-ends as touring and camping motorcyclists. Carol and I logged about 80K miles on two BMW motorcycles in the company of great friends.

The next career step was to Arkansas, a state forever set back by the racist antics of Orval Faubus at Little Rock High School in 1957 as the civilized world watched this drama on TV in disgust. I was recruited to the Arkansas Educational TV Network by a former colleague and became the Associate Director of the network and Executive Producer of local programming. For five years, that was a 'golden age' for me. The station won lots of awards; about 45 during that timeframe, including a national Emmy nomination.

Then-Governor Bill Clinton was a champion for public broadcasting, and he and Hillary Rodham Clinton often appeared on-air during TV fund-raisers. They are both great solicitors for causes they believe in. The Governor was an occasional guest on AETN news programs and always held his ground on progressive policy points during sometimes testy dialogs with panels of journalists.

At 40-something, I decided it was time to 'grow where I was planted' and stopped job-hopping. I sensed that AETN was headed for tough times ahead. Some megatrends were blowing in the wind.

1) The Governor was becoming 'distracted' by thinking about the Presidency. I realized that the next-ascending Governor would not be as supportive of AETN; a statewide network of five TV stations.

2) Federal funding for Public Broadcasting was on the skids in Congress, and I saw the handwriting on the wall - none of it encouraging for the long haul.

3) I enjoyed 'doing TV' but not 'being a bureaucrat.' When the top job of Executive Director of the network was open, I didn't seek the job. The AETN Commission hired another guy with seemingly good credentials on paper, but he turned out to be an S.O.B., a theif of station funds, and an adventurer with one of the female employees. Deeply disappointed and disillusioned, I abandoned the ship before it sank.

I joined the development staff of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in nearby Little Rock. During the following 15 years, I directed the university's academic-related communications projects and PR efforts. The creative team under my direction won a trophy case full of awards, and I'm proud of their accomplishments. Now 65 and nearing retirement, I'm counting the days until I'm fully on my own.

I'm re-directing my writing and editing skills to newspaper and magazine projects on topics that interest me. I've become quite Web-savvy, and I know enough about Web site creation and maintenance to explore yet another career path.

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