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They Said It Couldn't Be Done

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By Robert L. Allen with Ralph Robison 

With strong Scottish roots and the grit and pioneering spirit born into every Oklahoman, Robert L. Allen was destined to create a legacy for his home state. From the bandstand to the lights of New York City, Allen chased his dreams. But it was his belief in education and the lure of his home state that called him back to Oklahoma. After serving local teachers’ organizations and the public in the State Department of Education, Allen was “loaned” to the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA). More than 25 years later he had transformed a sleepy instructional channel into a dynamic window to the world that brought education, entertainment, and cultural diversity into the living rooms of Oklahomans in every corner of the state.

Allen championed original programming, including the Oklahoma News Report, Stateline, OETA Movie Club, and Oklahoma Passage, a five-part mini-series tracing one Oklahoma family from the Trail of Tears to the Twentieth Century. He understood the market niche for educational television. He mastered the balancing act of generating revenue with one program to support something else that needed to be done. And, he developed partnerships with industry leaders, public officials, and others in the non-profit sector to leverage resources where he sensed there was a shared mission.

Allen was an entrepreneur—a rare deal maker who found ways to invest in resources, take risks, and seek dividends not for personal gain but for the public good. The OETA Foundation, which flourished during his tenure, provided the flexibility and purchasing power needed for innovation in the public sector.

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