Arthur Singer Jr., Who Set the Stage for Public TV, Dies at 90


As Carnegie’s liaison to the commission, Mr. Singer recruited the staff, including his former colleague Stephen White as its director (and later principal author of the report), and concurred in the appointment of James R. Killian Jr., the chairman of the corporation of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as the commission’s chairman.

“In addition to establishing the infrastructure for public broadcasting,” Mr. Schindler wrote in the analysis for Duke University’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy and Civil Society, “the commission laid the groundwork for connecting the American public to informative, entertaining and enlightening television and radio programming.”

In an interview with the Columbia Center for Oral History in 1971, Mr. Singer said of the commission, “If there was any one thing at the foundation that I enjoyed most and took the greatest pride in its outcome, that’s it.”

Mr. Singer left the Carnegie Corporation in 1969 to become a vice president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, where he helped initiate two popular public television programs, “Nova” and “The American Experience.” The foundation also financed popular science books, among them “The Making of the Atomic Bomb” (1986), a Pulitzer Prize-winning narrative by Richard Rhodes.

“He pointed out that since we gave people money for a living, we were mostly bearers of good news and we should feel good and make others feel good about the work we did together,” Doron Weber, vice president for programs at the Sloan Foundation, said by email. “Having a good time was one indicator that we were doing our job.”

Arthur Louis Singer Jr. was born on Feb. 14, 1929, in Scranton, Pa., as his parents were on their way to their new home in New Jersey. His father was in the textile business. His mother, Isabel (Corcoran) Singer, was a homemaker.

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