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Terry Baun Dies at 74

An award-winning engineer, mentor and longtime SBE proponent including twice its president

Terry BaunTerry Baun, an influential and award-winning engineer who worked in both commercial and public broadcasting and was deeply involved with the Society of Broadcast Engineers including two terms as its president, has died at age 74.

Terrence M. Baun was born in 1947 and began his broadcast career in 1967 at classical music station WFMR(FM) in Milwaukee, according to a summary of his career she shared.

After 10 years, he began a series of jobs in corporate engineering and also soon formed consulting firm Criterion Broadcast Services. Employers over the years included Sudbrink Broadcasting, Multimedia Broadcasting and Cumulus Broadcasting.

He finished his broadcast career at the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, where he oversaw engineering and operations of the delivery system for Wisconsin Public Radio & Television throughout the state. He retired in 2017.

[Related: “Baun Retires After 50 Years”]

Baun had a close and longstanding relationship with the Society of Broadcast Engineers, which he joined in 1976 and which he served at various times in Chapter 28 Milwaukee and Chapter 25 Indianapolis. But his profile was national. Baun was elected to the national board in 1987 and went on to serve as vice president and then two terms as president starting in 1995.

“During his terms as national president, the society instituted the Leadership Development Course,” according to the obituary. “Terry worked to develop stronger ties and awareness of the SBE by the state broadcaster associations nationwide; he initiated a significant upgrade of the society’s national office data management capability. The society successfully transitioned from the multi-association World Media Expo, which ended in 1996, to the SBE National Meeting concept that we still use today.”

The SBE published the EAS Primer, written by Leonard Charles, during his term, and held its first strategic planning meeting during his presidency. Linda Baun said that during his years as president, SBE’s membership and financial strength grew.

He also was active as a mentor and proponent of the SBE Certification program, serving on its national Certification Committee for 21 years, three of them as chair, and he was instrumental in creation of the SBE Certified Broadcast Networking Technologist (CBNT) and AM Directional Specialist (AMD) certifications.

He was named SBE’s first Broadcast Engineer of the Year in 1991, an SBE Fellow in 1999 and SBE Educator of the Year in 2003. In 2010, he received the SBE’s John H. Battison Award for Lifetime Achievement.

He also worked to support the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association. He was an original member of its Summer Engineering Conference Steering Committee, and he founded the WBA Media Technology Institute in 2011. “He played a key role in developing the self-inspection program within the broadcast industry and is considered a leader in this field,” Linda Baun wrote. “Terry was one of the architects of the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association’s Alternative Broadcast Station Inspection Program, serving as the WBA’s chief inspector for more than 10 years, beginning with the program’s inauguration in 1995.”

He also conducted alternative station inspections for broadcast associations in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. “His desire was to have stations comply with the rules, rather than simply looking for reasons to cite them for noncompliance.”

In 2000, Baun initiated a 24-hour hotline for engineers in the state of Wisconsin through the WBA, and he manned the phone 24/7. “Based on his program model, other state broadcast associations have adopted the 24-hour engineering hotline.” Baun was inducted into the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association Foundation Hall of Fame in 2004.

Terry Baun in an undated photo published in Radio World at the time of his retirement in 2017.

“Terry Baun is the consummate example of servant leadership,” said Wisconsin Broadcasters Association President and CEO Michelle Vetterkind upon his retirement in 2017. “He has dedicated his career to meeting the needs of students, scholars, colleagues, broadcast stations and the broadcast industry. His approach has been to look beyond what is wanted and to assess what is needed. Through his actions and initiatives Terry has been a game changer for the broadcast industry.”

Linda Baun said one of Terry Baun’s great skills was his ability to share engineering expertise as a communicator and teacher. She quoted his comments upon entering the Wisconsin Broadcasting Hall of Fame (which can be viewed here): “Engineers are a critical part of the broadcasting enterprise. They’re technologists who bring broadcasting to life. I’ve always thought of myself as a broadcaster. Period. And within the scope of broadcasting, I feel that my contributions have been primarily in the technical side, the engineering side. …  I guess the educational aspect of what I’m doing is probably going to be my proudest moment when it’s all said and done.”

He spoke at industry events and seminars on technical topics; and his articles appeared in Radio World, Broadcast Engineering, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Press Club Annual. He co-authored a chapter on Facilities Documentation in an edition of the NAB Engineering Handbook and applied for a patent on an internet media streaming delivery system.

For the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board, Baun played an important role in the transition of Wisconsin Public Television to digital broadcasting. He also implemented a planning process with ECB staff for the next generation of the Broadcast Interconnect, which delivers Wisconsin Public Radio, Wisconsin Public Television, EAS and Amber Alert programming.

Among work he oversaw were a WHHI tower project, the WHAA(FM) Coloma Radio project, the University of Wisconsin System build in 2011, and the Chilton Gap Filler tower, a joint project with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. He also watched over HD Radio installations at ECB’s FM stations.

Baun was also a member of the Audio Engineering Society, the Association of Federal Communications Consulting Engineers and the IEEE. He served on the Milwaukee Area Technical College Broadcast Communications Engineer Advisory Committee.

Among his non-professional interests were reading, trains, classical music and the Green Bay Packers.

Terry Baun married Linda Godby in 2002. Linda worked for 15 years for the SBE including as its certification director and later was a key executive at the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association.

Survivors include her two daughters Leslie and Stacey and five grandchildren.

“Terry wanted a party, a big one,” Linda Baun said in an email. “Therefore we will celebrate his life with food, friends, drink and music and many other surprises on Sunday, Jan. 16 at the Madison Marriott West.” That is in Middleton, Wis., and starts at 5 p.m.  on Jan. 16.