Lasting impact: Alumnus Bob Giles reflects on TV and radio career, Wayne State's role in success
From humble beginnings holding cue cards for Milky the Clown on WDIV-TV Channel 4 to becoming one of Michigan’s first television news producers, Bob Giles ’68 will always point to one place that started it all.
“Wayne State set me on a career path that has been exceptional, it has been an institution I can always count on,” said Giles, who earned his bachelor’s degree in radio and television. This sentiment is repeated in a myriad of ways as he speaks about his education and continued relationship with Wayne State University.
A recipient of the prestigious Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame award, Giles was the first person in his immediate family to attend college. His experience at WSU contrasted greatly with his conservative upbringing and impacted his ability to work with people across the spectrum. “I owe a lot of the successes I had in my career to the education and support that I received at Wayne State University,” he said, and that it was a “terrific experience and a wonderful mixing place.”
As Giles recalls the lifelong friendships that began with his time on campus, the conversation is sprinkled with references to influencers and important people. However, they are not mentioned in a grandiose way. Instead, the focus is always on how Giles’ experiences relate back to his alma mater, and how it affected his life and career. In his words, “the most amazing things happened because of Wayne State.”
One thing that becomes crystal clear when speaking with Giles is that he values all he gained through his relationship with the university — most importantly his wife of 55 years, Louise, who also happened to work for Channel 4. “If Wayne had not sent me there, I would not have met her,” he said. In turn, Bob and Louise have had a lasting impact on WSU's students by providing an endowment and personal mentoring.
In 2018, the Giles’ started an endowment for journalism students and continue to make regular contributions to the award. In addition to the generous financial support the endowment provides, Bob Giles meets with the awardees and gently mentors them.
“I don’t like to meddle too much, but you want to make sure you are there if they need the help.” One of the ways he helps students is to inform them of internships they might interview for. “Internships are invaluable because sometimes they may help you to realize that broadcast journalism is not where you want to be at all because it is a tough business,” Giles said.
He also encourages everyone who can to consider supporting scholarships saying, “you guys (at Wayne State) make it easy and friendly,” and the scholarship “is a living thing, not a piece of paper, it’s an ongoing relationship between us and WSU.”
Kimmerly Piper-Aiken, associate professor of teaching and journalism area head, helps to award the Giles Scholarship and puts the importance of the award into perspective.
“The Robert and Louise Giles Endowment is extremely beneficial to students studying multi-platform journalism, which includes news reporting and producing, with a focus on audio and video storytelling,” she said. “This scholarship is the only journalism scholarship that recognizes students who choose broadcasting as a career, so it is invaluable to these students.”
Giles came up when television was in its infancy, during “an era that discovered and defined the threshold of television news.” And while he looks back with fondness on the past, he acknowledges and appreciates how technology has changed the face of journalism and that education must keep up.
“Wayne has been very good keeping up with technology by having an active and working newsroom and production facility,” he said. “This has been super important.” But acknowledges that the expense of keeping up with technology is prohibitive and is another reason to encourage others to support scholarships.