Education

O. Leonard Press, who built Kentucky Educational Television into a nationally respected model for educational, cultural, historical and public affairs programming, has died. He was 97.

In a statement on its website, KET says Press died Wednesday night at Lexington’s Central Baptist Hospital. KET says Press was a “visionary” who changed the state forever.

“Len Press inspired everyone who knew him, especially those who were fortunate to work with him, including myself,” said KET Executive Director Shae Hopkins. “Following his retirement in 1991, Len remained KET’s most passionate advocate.”

At Press’ urging, the Kentucky General Assembly in 1962 passed legislation creating the Kentucky Authority for Educational Television and named Press as its first executive director.

Press was involved in much of the fundraising for the new network.

Based in Lexington, KET signed on the air for the first time on Sept. 26, 1968, broadcasting weekdays during school hours across the state. Many of the network’s current services — including robust legislative coverage and K-12 resources — were launched under Press’ leadership.