Captain Kangaroo to speak at WMC TV veteran to focus on 'society's attitude toward children'

September 27, 1996|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Bob Keeshan, television's veteran Captain Kangaroo, returns to Western Maryland College tomorrow for a speech of the millennium.

It's part of "A Day of Illumination" at the campus and the kickoff of a $40 million fund-raising drive to the year 2000. The day concludes with Carroll County's first laser show.

Keeshan's address, "Defining Lessons," will be at 2 p.m. in Baker Memorial Chapel. Programs on technology and education will follow in the academic buildings. The laser show will be in the Gill Center at 8: 45 p.m. The events are free.

The college's fund-raising campaign is for renovations and building projects, ranging from construction of a new science center to improvements to academic buildings and dormitories, and bolstering faculty endowments and scholarships, said Donald W. Schumaker Jr., a college spokesman.

The college's science building was constructed in 1914. Once a new science laboratory is completed, the existing building will be renovated for badly needed classroom space.

No major improvements have been made to residence halls in a decade.

College officials are looking for more financial support from alumni and local businesses. The hope is more businesses will contribute to programs that provide financial aid to Carroll County graduates who attend Western Maryland.

"This weekend is our first public announcement of the fund-raising campaign," said Joyce Muller, the college's director public information. "We're really celebrating the college and the college's role in this community."

Muller said college officials couldn't think of a better person to invite to the campus as part of an academic program for the fund-raising kickoff than Keeshan, who educated millions with his long-running television show.

Keeshan, who embarks next week on a national tour promoting his newest book, "Good Morning, Captain: 50 Wonderful Years with Bob Keeshan," was awarded an honorary degree by the college in May.

His nephew took postgraduate courses at the college.

The 69-year-old said in an interview this week that he was busy writing his speech for Western Maryland.

"It will focus on the next millennium: The state of higher education today and the needs of higher education -- and what we as a society have to do to help in their mission, which will be greater than in the past," Keeshan said.

When Keeshan, a Long Island native who lives in Vermont, isn't traveling around the country, he speaks out on issues affecting children.

His speech tomorrow will deal with "society's attitude toward children," he said.

"I will talk about what I know to be the folly of 'welfare reform': using the hatchet rather than the scalpel," he said. "As a result, I believe that children are going to suffer greatly.

"And that's pretty stupid, because children do not cost us money," he said. "But they do cost us money when they grow up to be full-fledged adults: illiterate; teen-aged mothers; drug and alcohol abusers. It's penny-wise and pound-foolish."

With the resurgence of interest in children's programming, Keeshan is discussing new television shows and expects to return to the air within the year.

"There is no question I'm going to be doing either one or two or three programs for young people," he said.

On the subject of children, the mild-mannered captain can become quite passionate.

"Generosity has built America," he said. "When we fail to invest in children, we have to pay the cost. For example, the school lunch program: The costs are very minimal [and] they are able to learn because they aren't dizzy, they don't have growling stomachs and they grow up to be taxpayers."

Keeshan first donned a wig, mustache and the jacket with oversized pockets to become Captain Kangaroo for CBS on Oct. 3, 1955. The show ended 30 years later as the longest-running network children's program. After about a year off the air, Keeshan took the captain to public television for six seasons.

He left his show on PBS in 1993 because of the illness of his wife, who died in February, he said.

The show won six Emmy awards, three Gabriel awards, two Peabody awards and in 1986 garnered the Ohio State Golden Anniversary Director's Award.

Keeshan will appear in Baltimore on Nov. 4 to lecture on "Preparing for the 21st Century" for the 1996 Mid-Atlantic Conference on Children.

He's scheduled to arrive Oct. 31 and do book signings Nov. 1-3.

High-tech show

Western Maryland College's "Day of Illumination" also features an indoor laser, light and music show with high-tech special effects by Audio Visual Imagineering Inc. and the appearance -- and possible disappearance -- of illusionist Scott Grocki, a 1995 Western Maryland graduate.

Grocki's show features magic and illusions incorporating pyrotechnics and aerotechnics. He and fellow performer Jennifer Brown, another 1995 graduate, will present classic illusions and skits created for the show.

The show is free, and families are welcome, but tickets are required. Tickets are available during the Westminster Fall Fest at WTTR's remote station and at the information booth.

Tickets also are available from local merchants and at the information desk at Decker College Center.

NB For more information and area ticket locations, call 857-2766.

Pub Date: 9/27/96

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