Thomas's Story

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Tom Scanlan worked in the broadcast industry for nearly 50 years, 39 of which were spent in the state of Michigan. He first saw television as a five-year-old when his dad took him into a New York City restaurant, and he was instantly transfixed by a prizefight on a 7 screen on a TV above the door. At 14-years-old with $100 borrowed from his dad, he went into business installing TV antennas in his neighborhood.

In 1966, he graduated from Michigan State University on an Air Force Scholarship, which carried with it a four-year active duty commitment. Scanlan was assigned to the Armed Forces Radio and Television Service and served as the commanding officer for nine television and radio stations in Turkey and Germany. While in Germany, he organized a campaign to raise funds to broadcast the moon landing of Apollo 11, because at the time, the military broadcasting network received their programming via 16mm, black and white film two to six month after it was first seen in the U.S. Scanlan arranged for a microwave interconnection to Eurovision and paid for it with the money raised, and was able to bring the overseas community seven days of live, real-time broadcasts of the landing and surrounding events to his audience. This event was the first live, overseas satellite television broadcast to military families overseas and demonstrated the need for live transmissions overseas. His pioneering endeavor leads to appropriations of the necessary funds to launch satellite circuits for live broadcasts, a system that remains in place today.

Leaving active duty in 1973, Toms career included serving as Owner and General Manager for eight full-power commercial TV stations over the next years while maintaining a career as an active reservist until retiring in 2000 as a Lieutenant Colonel. Of the stations he owned, three, WBKB-TV (Alpena), WBKP-TV (Calumet) and WBUP-TV (Marquette/Ishpeming), were brand new sign-ons, serving new areas in northern Michigan. He also bought and managed WGTU-TV and WGTQ-TV in Traverse City and served as General Manager of four other stations in Florida, Mississippi and North Carolina.

Tom was a lifetime Rotarian, President of Michigan Association of Broadcasters, and the recipient of the Michigan Broadcasters Lifetime Achievement Award, and President of the Keweenaw Economic Development Association. He was on the Miscowaubik Club Board of Directors and an active supporter of Michigan Tech Hockey. He enjoyed hockey, travel and big bowls of ice cream with family. He relished the chance to watch local news from around the US, with feeds he orchestrated via various satellite providers. He loved telecommunications infrastructure and would stop at any and all microwave transmission tower, AT&T tower or radio/TV transmitter. He was also a train buff and collected antique locks.

Tom is survived by wife Sue, of Copper Falls, MI and Tucson AZ, son Thomas Jeffrey (Monique) and daughter Jessica Claire (Bryan Ramsey), and grandchildren Rowan Ramsey, Nathan Scanlan and Nova Ramsey.
Published on June 2, 2017
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