Farewell to a Dear FriendJune 10, 2021
By JERRY BIRGE
Special to the Herald
Jasper native Kurt Ackerman passed away last week at the age of 58 at his home in Southington, Connecticut. For the last 25 years, Kurt has earned a stellar reputation as a director of ESPN’s SportsCenter and First Take programs. For the past week, ESPN has been filled with accolades for Kurt. Numerous newspapers and television stations have done the same.
I find myself thinking back to one of the best moves of my career in broadcasting. It was at WTVW, Channel 7, in Evansville when, as news director, I moved Kurt out of the production department into the news department. A few years later, he moved on to the Fox station in Detroit to direct its noon newscasts.
I had already left Channel 7 when he made the move, but I received a nice note from him thanking me for the role I played in his successful move. A year or so later, Mag and I made a trip that took us to Detroit and we were fortunate to spend time with Kurt. He invited us in to the control room to watch him direct the newscast, which included our first look at remote control studio cameras.
With Kurt calling the cast, it went off perfectly. We started talking baseball with Kurt after the cast and he told us the Yankees were in town and asked if we wanted to see the game from the station’s box at Briggs Stadium. Of course, we said yes and we spent a memorable evening with Kurt watching the Tigers play the Yankees, who had a first baseman from Evansville named Don Mattingly.
Kurt spent about eight years in Detroit before moving to ESPN as a director of its signature SportsCenter program. The day he learned of his hiring, he took time to call me and once again thank me for my help in getting him into the big leagues of broadcasting. That really meant a lot to me and I was humbled by his words.
Kurt spent a quarter of a century at ESPN and earned an awards-filled reputation there. In recent years, Kurt was thrown a nasty curve called cancer, and my only connection to him was through his late father, Vince Ackerman, who kept me informed of Kurt’s condition. Being a true champion, Kurt battled has way back into the director’s chair on a number of occasions, but the curves kept coming and his body finally faltered. The sports broadcasting world lost a class act and I lost a special friend.
Farewell, dear friend, you’ve done yourself, your family, your hometown, and all of us proud. You and your accomplishments will not be forgotten.
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