Donor profile: Stu & Jan Sills

“I remember the very first ‘Nova’ episode I ever saw,” says Arizona PBS donor Stu Sills. He describes a scene that examined a tadpole’s eye. Or at least it was one of the first episodes, he adds – the first to make an impression.

Stu grew up in Phoenix near 5th Ave. and McDowell in the 1940s. He fondly remembers paying a nickel to ride the trolley downtown to go to the movies or check for new DC Comics at the newsstand.

Stu also remembers the early days of KAET, in the days when the station broadcast for only eight hours a day. “There was a gardening show with an ASU professor named Vic Miller,” he recalls. “I bet not many people remember that.”

Today Stu and his wife Jan remain steadfast supporters of Arizona PBS. “We can’t think of a better place for the money,” Jan says.

“It’s where we spend most of our time when we’re watching television,” Stu agrees, naming “Frontline,” “Independent Lens,” “Check, Please! Arizona” and “Rick Steves’ Europe” as a few of their favorites. Having lived well-traveled lives, they said a recent “Nature” on wildlife in Puerto Rico brought back fond memories of a trip to the island.

“Sometimes the challenge is, what do I pick to watch?” Stu says. “There are so many interesting choices, especially when you also think of ‘Life’ and ‘World.’” Plus, Passport allows Jan and Stu to stream shows on their schedule.

As we speak with Stu and Jan, “The Great War: American Experience” is fresh in their minds. “You always learn so much with PBS,” Jan says, pointing out that in their school days, World War I was not yet taught in history class. (Younger viewers, including this writer, look forward to Ken Burns’ Vietnam War documentary in September for the same reason.)

As Legacy Society members, Jan and Stu have included Arizona PBS in their estate planning. Given their investment, what do they hope the future will hold for Arizona PBS?

“That you’ll be able to get the funding figured out,” Stu says, referring to the proposed national budget that would defund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. “This station does so much important work for the community. The depth of local coverage on ‘Horizon’ – it really keeps local politicians’ feet to the fire.”

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