Jack Hyyppa is a native Montanan from Whitehall, who graduated from Butte High. He went on to earn undergraduate degrees from Montana State University and a graduate degree at Northern Illinois University, He returned to MSU in 1973 to join the faculty of the Film and Television Department where he taught television and film production. Jack retired from teaching in 2006 as a full professor having impacted the lives of thousands of students, many of whom went on to careers in television in Montana and beyond.
In 1984, inspired by a local group of mothers who wanted Sesame Street available for their children, Jack brought KUSM-TV, Montana's first public television station, on the air, serving as its manager for 22 years. The station began humbly and creatively, with assistance from KUED in Salt Lake City, and a donated, low-power transmitter from Montana broadcasting legend and Hall-of-Famer, Joe Sample. In the years that followed, Jack grew the small station,
raising support from the community, the university, and the Montana legislature. Its reach would eventually be extended through cable systems across the state and a number of translators.
In 1997, Jack was instrumental in forging a partnership between the state's two rival universities to form Montana Public Television. KUFM-TV went on the air, and in a virtually unprecedented show of cooperation, staff and producers at the University of Montana joined forces with the station at MSU to expand over-the-air public television into western Montana. In the subsequent years, that partnership grew to include stations in Billings, Great Falls and Kalispell.
Jack believed that locally produced, locally scheduled, educational, historical, and civic programming should be available to all Montanans. Today, MontanaPBS serves over 400 Montana communities, reaching over 80% of the state for free, and is available in nearly every Montana home.
Jack Hyyppa’s career established his place as the father of public broadcasting in Montana, a dedicated educator, and an influential leader of our industry.