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In This Issue

       

TV writer/producer Dean Hargrove endows scholarship honoring his mother’s work

Dean Hargrove
Dean Hargrove

Dean Hargrove has rubbed elbows with countless film celebrities and TV moguls. He’s attended numerous glitzy galas and star-studded awards ceremonies. He’s lived a life of glamour and fame that many dream of, with Hollywood and Beverly Hills part of his everyday landscape.

But Hargrove’s roots are in Kansas and Wichita, and the connection remains strong. Though he hasn’t lived in Kansas since he graduated from the University of Wichita in 1960, he feels a sense of gratitude for the way his education and experience here helped prepare him for life.

“I’ve always carried fond memories of WSU with me,” Hargrove says in a phone interview from his home near Los Angeles. “It gave me great opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have had in other places. The university as a whole was very supportive of me.”

Now retired from his career as a TV producer and writer but still active as a filmmaker, Hargrove has pledged a gift to the WSU Foundation from his estate to endow a political science scholarship named for his mother, Joan Hargrove. Joan was executive assistant in the 1950s to Hugo Wall, chair of the WSU political science department and the person for whom the Hugo Wall School of Public Affairs is named.

Hargrove graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and some of his favorite memories of college are the relationships he established with professors such as David Farnsworth and Steve North. “People would actually line up to get into his classes,” Hargrove says of North.

On a visit to Wichita several years ago to attend a reunion of his fraternity, Hargrove spoke with two members who mentioned the high regard they had for his mother as Wall’s assistant.

“That’s when I started thinking about doing something in her memory,” he said. “I see this gift as an opportunity to recognize her contributions and impact.”

It was probably Hargrove’s participation in his fraternity and especially his time spent writing skits for the student performance event called Hippodrome that spurred his love of theater and film. After graduation, he moved to California to attend film school at UCLA, but left after about a year to pursue a writing career in television.

His first job was writing for a 30-minute live TV show called “The Bob Newhart Show” (not to be confused with the sitcom of the same name that aired in the 1970s.) That led to other freelance jobs until he became the staff writer in 1964 for the popular TV show “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

“That opened a lot of doors for me,” says Hargrove, describing a career that took him from a contract with Universal to one with Viacom and eventually Sony International Television. Along the way he wrote and produced such hits as “It Takes a Thief,” “Columbo,” “Matlock” and “Diagnosis: Murder.”

Hargrove won a Primetime Emmy Award in 1974 for “Columbo” and was nominated four other times. He worked throughout much of his career with Fred Silverman, one of the most prominent TV producers and executives of the 1970s and ’80s.

These days, Hargrove has returned to his first love, film. In 2015 he made a well-reviewed documentary on tap dancing called “Tap World,” which was picked up by NetFlix. He’s now writing a fictional movie on tap dancing, inspired by some of the stories in “Tap World.”

Hargrove is married to Brenda, a professional photographer. One of their favorite pastimes is — what else — watching television.

“People refer to the golden age of TV as being in the early years, but I think we’re in a real golden age today,” he says. “The quality of writing, the performances, the production are all just amazing.”

As one of Wichita State’s most distinguished alumnus, Hargrove was awarded the WSU President’s Medal in 1996 and gave the commencement address that year. His estate gift endowing a scholarship in his mother’s name will symbolize his dedication to his alma mater for many years to come.