Nessa R. Forman, 68, who expanded newspaper coverage of the arts in Philadelphia, led WHYY's public relations and outreach efforts for 25 years, and offered mentoring and opportunities to colleagues and younger people for decades, died Sept. 10 at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse. She lived in Center City.
Nessa R. Forman
Forman retired in 2007 as vice president for corporate communications and public affairs at WHYY, the primary public broadcaster in both radio and television in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Southern New Jersey and Delaware. Under her leadership as part of the executive team, the station developed national promotional campaigns for "Fresh Air With Terry Gross" on NPR, "Hometime" and "Liberty's Kids" on PBS, and other programs.
In 2001, she developed Civic Space, the stations' community partnerships program. She promoted major public events, including the first two-day Family Internet Festival; a citywide celebration of the arts; a multimedia educational service including an offering for preschool children and their caretakers; and another for adults seeking college credit through telecourses.
She also was a leader in developing the 50th anniversary celebration of WHYY-FM, and donated her personal WHYY archives to Temple University.
Before going to WHYY, Forman was arts and leisure editor of The Philadelphia Bulletin until it closed in 1982. Aware of how the arts affect people in their daily lives, she changed the paper's coverage from features to critical analysis, taking the subject out of the features sections and onto the front page. She also wrote arts criticism herself.
"I've been lucky. I had two great jobs. How many people can say that?" Forman told the Philadelphia Ad Club after retiring from WHYY.
After her retirement, she was interim executive director of the Gershman Y; co-founded the website worktheshow.com, which offers solutions for workplace issues; and consulted for non-profit organizations including the Christ Church Preservation Trust and the Philadelphia Foundation.
She was on the boards of many agencies, including the Philadelphia Young Playwrights Festival Philadelphia Chapter; the Library Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; Bread Upon the Waters, which offers scholarships to the University of Pennsylvania for women over 30; and the Caring People Alliance, affiliated with the Boys and Girls Clubs.
She was a board member and former president of the Philadelphia chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, and a member of other civic and professional groups including the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, the Public Relations Society of America and Women in Communications.
In 2002, she was inducted into the hall of fame of the Philadelphia Public Relations Association, and in 2005 was named a woman of distinction by the Philadelphia Business Journal. Among her honors were a Sarah Award from Women in Communications and a PBS Communications Award, both in 2000.
A native of Atlantic City, she kept a second home and a car there. When in Philadelphia, she typically walked everywhere she needed to go.
Forman earned a bachelor's degree in English literature in 1965 and a master's degree in art history in 1968 at the University of Pennsylvania.
She is survived by several cousins and a network of personal friends.
Memorial contributions can be sent to: the Nessa Forman, David Forman, Eleanor and Solomon Forman Family Fund at the Philadelphia Foundation, 1234 Market St., Suite 1800, Philadelphia, PA 19107.