Hubert J. (“Hub”) Schlafly, Jr., TelePrompter inventor and Two-time Emmy Award winner, dies
STAMFORD, Conn. - April 25, 2011 – Hubert J. Schlafly, Jr., a visionary engineer whose invention of the TelePrompter and execution of the first satellite transmission of a cable television programming transformed the industry, died on April 20, 2011, according to Thomas Gallagher, his good friend.
Schlafly died peacefully at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut, after a brief illness. He was 91 years old.
After graduation as an electrical engineer from the University of Notre Dame (Class of 1941), he spent several years working for General Electric and the MIT Radiation Laboratory. In 1947, he was invited to join Twentieth Century Fox in New York City as Director of Television Research.
A prolific inventor, Schlafly is best known for developing the teleprompter in collaboration with Irving Berlin Kahn and Fred Barton, Jr., and for co-founding the TelePrompTer Corporation, which he led first as its Executive Vice President and later as its President. The teleprompter made its debut in 1950 on a soap opera called, “The First Hundred Years,” and in 1952 Herbert Hoover became the first politician to use it when he gave the keynote address to the Republican National Convention. As Hoover digressed from his prepared remarks to speak extemporaneously, the teleprompter properly stopped scrolling to await the completion of Hoover’s ad-libbing. But then Hoover announced in front of the entire nation that the teleprompter needed to restart the scrolling so he could read what to say, and the secret was out. Before long everyone in television wanted to use this new technology.
In 1956, Hub was invited by the editors of a leading science fiction magazine, Amazing Stories (Ziff-Davis Publishing Company), to join over a dozen public figures such as Sid Caesar, Salvador Dali and John Cameron Swayze to predict what the world would be like in 2001. Schlafly said: “Systematic information storage will be in a form instantly available for response to remote inquiry…Communications will be highly refined, without the encumbrance of any wires to or between terminal devices. In fact, this advanced state of communications may substantially reduce our need for transportation.” Schlafly described and predicted the advent of computers, the Internet and cell phones.
Schlafly was a pioneer and first-rate collaborator in the field of telecommunications. He helped shape the modern television industry. He held 16 patents.
He also developed the first pay TV system that permitted subscribers to order special programs delivered by coaxial cable. By the early 1970s, TelePrompTer Corporation owned franchises in 140 markets and served approximately 1.4 million customers.
Working with Hal Rosen at Hughes Aircraft, which designed the first domestic satellite, and with Scientific Atlanta Company, in June 1973, Schlafly executed the first satellite transmission of a cable program from Washington, D.C., to a convention of 3,000 cable operators in Anaheim, California. It was the first time a satellite was used to transmit cable programming and allowed one to go up to satellites from anywhere and transmit everywhere. It transformed the industry.
In addition, he engineered the famous HBO satellite transmission of the “Thrilla in Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
Born on August 14, 1919, in St. Louis, Missouri, he was predeceased by his beloved wife of 59 years, Leona (“Lee”) Martin Schlafly, who died in 2003.
Among his many awards, he received two Emmy Awards, one for the teleprompter and another for his outstanding engineering achievement for cable television technology. He was designated a “Cable Television Pioneer” by the National Cable Television Association. He received the prestigious Sarnoff Citation for his patent of the TelePrompTer and many contributions to cable television, the Vanguard Award for Science and Technology from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, and in 2008, he was inducted into the Cable Television Hall of Fame. After his acceptance speech at the Cable Television Hall of Fame at age 88, Hub revealed to the audience that it was the first time he had ever used a teleprompter to make a speech.
At WNET, the premier public media provider of the New York City metropolitan area and parent company of public television stations THIRTEEN and WLIW21, the Convergence Lab is named in Schlafly’s honor.
As a philanthropist, he quietly supported numerous charities, especially educational initiatives to help the poor. He and his wife endowed a scholarship program for minority students in engineering at Notre Dame, where he served on the Engineering Advisory Council for over 30 years. He and his wife also endowed the Schlafly Electronic Circuits Laboratory at Notre Dame.
At Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Connecticut, its Digital Media Lab was dedicated in his honor. As a tribute to his wife, Leona, he underwrote the costs of the Chapel of the Nativity, the daily worship space of The Chapel of the Holy Spirit at Sacred Heart University that includes original mosaics and stained glass by the world-famous Jesuit artist, Father Marko Rupnik.
A lifelong Catholic, Hub was a member of the Order of Malta and was a Knight of Saint Gregory the Great. A Mass of Christian burial will take place on Tuesday morning, April 26, 2011, at Saint Mary Parish, Greenwich, Connecticut 06830.
A graveside service will be held on Thursday morning, April 28, 2011, in Louisville, New York, where he will be laid to rest next to his beloved wife, Lee.
Here’s what others had to say about Hub Schlafly:
“Hub Schlafly was perhaps the most collaborative and authoritative leader in the cable industry. He did so much in the early years of cable to improve its technology. He led Teleprompter Corporation in a difficult period and has assembled a staff that has since provided leadership for many companies. Hub was a warm, hospitable individual and universally liked.”
-Charles F. Dolan, Founder and Chairman, Cablevision Systems Corporation (NYSE: CVC)
“It is with deep sadness that we note the passing of our dear colleague Hub Schlafly. Hub was one of those rare visionaries who always looked toward a future where our technology would improve the lives of common people in profound ways. His inventive genius and innovations, which include his pioneering work in satellite transmission, contributed greatly to the growth and development of the early cable television industry. We are all better connected to the world because of Hub Schlafly -- he had the talent to turn dreams into reality and he will be missed.”
-Larry Satkowiak, President and CEO, The Cable Center, Denver, Colorado
“Hub Schlafly represents the very best of the engineering profession: humble beginnings, great creativity, a commitment to lasting values, and tremendous impact in the application of science and technology for the benefit of society. Hub had a long and very distinguished career in the application of electrical and communication engineering technologies to television, multimedia, broadcast studios, military command and control, and cable television. In this long and distinguished career, Hub was awarded two Emmys for Outstanding Achievement. The Notre Dame College of Engineering, on behalf of the University, salutes Hub for a wonderful life well lived. Our prayers are with him.”
-Peter Kilpatrick, Ph.D., McCloskey Dean of Engineering, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana
“The Schlafly Electronics Circuits Laboratory is the centerpiece of undergraduate education in electrical engineering at Notre Dame. Through Hub Schlafly's generosity, he has enabled us to consistently offer our students a rich and constantly-improving lab environment. Every student graduating in electrical engineering or computer engineering from Notre Dame for the last decade has benefited tremendously from Hub's gift, and we are so grateful.”
-Thomas Fuja, Ph.D., Professor and Department Chair, Electrical Engineering, College of Engineering, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, Indiana
“It is with the greatest confidence and fondness that we commend Hub Schlafly to the Lord of life and love. Hub was a most accomplished individual in technology and business. Even more importantly, he was a man of deep faith and abiding charity. So many of us have been blessed by his friendship and wisdom, and we will greatly miss him. May his great soul rejoice forever in the Presence of God.”
-Most Reverend William E. Lori, S.T.D., Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, CT
“Hub Schlafly is an example of leading with kindness and was a huge force in global media in a quiet, humble and selfless way. He will be missed.”
-William F. Baker, Ph.D., President Emeritus, WNET.org, and Distinguished Professor of Education, Fordham University, Bronx, New York
“Hub was a dear and very generous friend: in all matters, a gentleman. Everyone here owes him a debt – from his leadership support of our communications department to the student scholarships he established to the many lively exchanges he enjoyed with students and faculty about his pioneering inventions and media work. And our University’s beautiful Chapel of the Nativity was a gift of the heart from Hub and his beloved wife, Leona. We were blessed for many years to call this good and gracious man our dear friend, and we will pray for his gentle soul.”
-John J. Petillo, Ph.D., President, Sacred Heart University, Fairfield, Connecticut
“Mr. Schlafly has done something that very few people have done in this world. He was able to give himself to others and stay with us even after he is gone. There is not a day in my life that passes without me feeling thankful for what Mr. Schlafly did in my life. He gave me a way of living, and what is most important, he left me the responsibility to do the same or more for others. He really knew how to set the bar higher and higher every time. I will always find inspiration from him… inspiration to always do better, to know that nothing is impossible and that God gave me a lot through Mr. Schlafly, and one day I will have to answer what I did with what I received? Today is no different. I thank God for Mr. Schlafly’s path through this world, and especially through mine. He made a difference in my life. I will always be thankful.”
-Carlos Constante attended and graduated from the College of Engineering (B.S.M.E., Class of 2003), University of Notre Dame, on a scholarship program funded by Hub Schlafly. He now works for a major international corporation and is based in Quito, Ecuador.
To watch an oral history interview with Mr. Schlafly conducted by the Cable Center, see http://www.cablecenter.org/content.cfm?id=652
For more information, please contact:
Thomas Gallagher at (203) 561-3585 Mobile / firstname.lastname@example.org