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Longtime AETN Chief Allen Weatherly Dies at 64

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Allen Weatherly, who led the Arkansas Educational Television Network through 15 years of awards and online expansion, died early Tuesday morning after several weeks in a Little Rock hospital. He was 64.

Weatherly, who joined AETN as deputy executive director in 1993, was battling a heart ailment that had required two replacements of his aortic valve, according to Tony Brooks, the public television network’s deputy director.

“Upon returning from a recent trip, he had a fever, and he found out that the heart problem had returned,” Brooks said Tuesday morning. “He was in the hospital preparing for a third valve replacement surgery when he died peacefully in his sleep at 12:45 a.m.

Brooks said Weatherly’s family was with him at the time. He is survived by his wife, Peggy, daughter Lauren of Conway and a son, David, of Little Rock. He also had two grandsons and a granddaughter, Brooks said.

Under Weatherly’s leadership, the Conway-based network of PBS member stations increased educational services including online professional development for teachers, produced programming and training for Ready to Learn, the network’s children’s media service, and archived the memories of Arkansas’ World War II veterans.

In 2008, Weatherly was named Arkansas Citizen of the Year by the Scottish Rite in Little Rock, and he served several terms on the board of directors of the national Public Broadcasting Service.

Before joining AETN, he was with Ozarks Public Television in Springfield, Missouri, ending his service there as senior vice president and director of broadcasting.

Peggy Weatherly announced her husband’s death on her Facebook page, saying that her best friend and “the love of my life departed this world early this morning.” Adressing him as Dude, the term his grandchildren used for him, she wrote, “He told me soon after we met that he just wanted to leave a positive mark on this world. You did that, Allen. You did that.”

Brooks said colleagues had known for a week or so that Weatherly’s condition was grave. “You try to brace yourself, but you really can’t.” Brooks said that Weatherly had joined AETN as deputy director under Susan Howarth, who left for a public television job in Cincinnati in 2000. Weatherly succeeded her in early 2001 and hired Brooks as his deputy.

“When she departed, the commission selected Allen, and I recall that he asked that they do a complete search. They did that and then stayed with him. I think the thing that most people here appreciated about Allen was that he knew he had a talented staff. When he hired me 16 years ago as his deputy, he said we were lucky to have good people. All we had to do was set parameters and get out of their way. Allen was the kind of a boss who could also be a friend. These days are going to be tough on me and the entire staff. But we’re asking for people to pray for Allen’s family, and especially for those grandkids. He adored them.”

Weatherly was a history buff and a fan of Ken Burns documentaries. Max Brantley, reporting in the Arkansas Times Blog, wrote that he had been “laying groundwork for a local program to complement Burns’ coming documentary about Vietnam.”

According to Brooks an emergency phone conference of the Arkansas Educational Television Commission was planned for Tuesday afternoon.

“They have duties under our bylaws to carry on,” Brooks said. “They have been supportive of me and the whole staff, and very involved and hands on. We will proceed with our mission of supporting education, the viewers, and the children and teachers of Arkansas. Allen left a big hole, but we will carry on. We’ll carry on because he taught us how.”

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