Remembering Dick Bishop

Guest post by Steve Hinnefeld, who regularly blogs at Policy Briefings.  

Indiana University and the Bloomington community suffered a great loss Monday night with the death of Dick Bishop, a longtime IU Foundation official and WFIU jazz host.

Bishop shared his love for and encyclopedic knowledge of jazz and American popular song with WFIU listening audiences for over 50 years. He was also a valued employee and great friend of IU; he was a key member of the IU Foundation leadership team from 1988 to 2005.

Dick Bishop.

Dick Bishop.

He was many things: A lover of music, a baseball fan, a devoted husband, a regular at Nick’s English Hut. Most of all, friends and co-workers knew him as a thoughtful, dependable and gracious person who would see the people at the heart of every campaign, performance and event.

“There was not a single program developed for which he did not remind all of us that we were dealing with individual people, not statistics,” said Curt Simic, IU Foundation president emeritus and Bishop’s close friend. “The university and foundation could not have been served better and with more loyalty than they were served by Dick.”

Bishop presented jazz as a volunteer host at WFIU, the Bloomington public radio station, starting in the 1950s; he started as a student announcer and moved on to create and host “The Big Bands,” “Afterglow” and “Standards by Starlight,” the latter a celebration of American popular song.

When he returned to WFIU in 2012 after a seven-year absence, an article in the station’s newsletter said, regarding “Afterglow,” that he took the title from a composition by pianist Marian McPartland but “all of the rest — the elegance, the passion, the laid-back expertise, the congenial charm and the delivery with a ‘martini moon’ quality to it — came from Dick himself.”

“Dick set the tone for WFIU for over 50 years,” said Perry Metz, executive director of IU Radio and Television Services. “From his first 15-minute jazz program, Dick demonstrated that there would be strong audiences for high-quality local programming. His urbane and knowledgeable style drew people of all ages to big band and jazz standards. We were lucky to have his leadership and example.”

WFIU is planning programming in tribute to Bishop on Thursday afternoon during “Just You and Me” and Friday evening during its regular block of jazz shows.

An only child, Bishop spent his early years in Grosse Point, Mich., and later moved with his family to Fort Wayne, Ind., where he graduated from Concordia High School. He was an avid Detroit Tigers fan, served as senior student manager for the IU baseball team and made lifelong friends at IU as a member of Kappa Delta Rho fraternity. On his initial 15-minute program on newly established station WFIU, he played recordings by his favorite artists including Frank Sinatra, Hoagy Carmichael and the Four Freshmen.

He was also a jazz drummer who became friends with renowned faculty at the IU Jacobs School of Music and often interviewed famous musicians and band leaders for his radio programs.

At IU, he earned a B.S. degree in education in 1961, an M.S. in 1971 and an Ed.D. in 1977. His varied career included stints as the first university relations director at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne and positions in the IU Bloomington alumni office, the dean’s office of the School of Education, Radio and Television Services, and the IU president’s office under Joseph Sutton and John Ryan.

For 29 years, he was a devoted and loving husband to Nancy Harvey Bishop, who died in March 2007. In her memory, he established the Nancy Harvey Bishop Student Support Fund at IU.

At the IU Foundation, he was liaison to the IU Student Foundation, serving as mentor to generations of students and providing invaluable support for the Little 500 bicycle races. He received the School of Education Distinguished Alumni Award, the Jazz from Bloomington Al Cobine Award, the State of Indiana Distinguished Hoosier Award and the IU Foundation Herman B Wells Legacy Award.

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2 thoughts on “Remembering Dick Bishop

  1. Margaret Joseph Zimmerman says:

    I worked with Dick Bishop at WFIU for 22 years. He was the consummate gentleman and was a professional broadcaster. We occasionally dealt with weather emergencies together, and I found him to be appropriately concerned for the well-being of his audience. His knowledge of jazz and The Great American Songbook was extensive. In 1997, before I left WFIU, we teamed up to do a live, call-in program about Hoagy Carmichael, broadcasting from WTIU’s Studio 6, with a School of Music professor playing Hoagy’s music on the station’s grand piano. It was my favorite of all the hundreds of programs I ever produced at Radio-TV. Dick will always remain one of the most gracious persons I have ever been privileged to know.

  2. Dick Bishop says:

    After reading the obituary for Dick Bishop, it saddens me not to have known a ‘younger’ namesake. Thank you for sharing the story of a remarkable man. I offer my condolences to those closest to Dick.

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