Bill Perry cut his teeth in television while working in Ada and being a student at East Central University.
It was the advice of Bill Hoover, then station manager at KTEN-TV when the studios were located in Ada, that set into motion a dynamic career which culminated with Perry’s recent induction into the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) Heartland Emmy Chapter’s Gold Circle Society of Honor.
Perry is set to retire soon as vice president for content production at the Oklahoma Educational Television Authority (OETA) at the end of August, but not before being recognized for his 50-plus years working in TV.
“I’m very honored. This (Gold Circle induction) is kind of rare for this entire region,” said Perry. “It’s more common to be in the silver range because most people don’t work as long in the field.”
Only three Oklahomans have achieved the Gold Circle honor for the Heartland Region of Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado along with a few small markets in neighboring states.
Two of those three Gold Circle honorees are ECU alums. The late Bill Thrash, who also spent much of his career at OETA, was the other ECU graduate. Perry and Thrash worked together for 23 years at the public broadcast station.
As a student at ECU, Perry got into broadcasting early, and as fate would have it, it would be a career-long endeavor. He started early at KTEN while in college, doing behind the scenes work, reporting and eventually anchoring the news as a college senior.
But it was the advice of Hoover that perhaps put him on the track to become what he is today. Perry entertained the idea of transferring to the University of Oklahoma because ECU had just one television broadcast class at the time, taught by Dr. Nabors. Also at the time, the textbook was a little outdated.
“I had already been working at KTEN. Knowing that the book was a little dated, he would ask me if this is the way we do it now?” Perry remembers.
Because of his appetite to learn more, Perry told Hoover that he was thinking of transferring to OU for the chance to take more courses.
“He asked me, ‘why’? I said ‘because I wanted to work in TV,” said Perry. “He again asked ‘why’? He said if you stay here, you will have all kinds of opportunities. You’ve already got a job here.”
It was then that Perry realized that the on-the-job training, along with getting his degree at ECU in 1972, could propel him to new heights. He was a double-major at ECU in theatre arts/speech and psychology.
His big break in working at KTEN came with an unusual set of circumstances and he gives credit to the old Evergreen Feed Mill store in Ada.
“I got an opportunity to talk to Hoover. We talked about theatre and television, but he told me that he had no openings and I left pretty dejected,” Perry said. “They called me the next day and I went back there. It turns out, someone had quit to go to work at the Evergreen. I got hired as a production assistant.”
According to Perry, because his paperwork was at the top of a rather large stack, he was hired. Someone gave him old wooden token from the Evergreen Feed Store, which he still holds today to commemorate that opportunity.
As vice president for content production at OETA, Perry is responsible for producing in-house programming and has fond memories of working with fellow alum Thrash.
“He gave me my opportunity. He and I took similar paths. He was 11 years ahead of me,” said Perry about Thrash. “In 1989, I started talking to him and I began here at OETA in 1990.”
Though the two went down some same roads, their creativity avenues were a little different.
“He was more about creating live events like a parade,” Perry said. “Mine, was to create and produce it like a documentary.”
Perry’s wife is Sue, who works for the City of Edmond, and they have two children and two grandchildren.