This Kaitz Dinner Honors Its Roots
By Allison Romano -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/19/2004 8:00:00 PM
After years of bestowing accolades on cable executives for their diversity efforts, Spencer Kaitz is finally getting what he deserves: credit for his contributions.
Kaitz, former chairman of the California Cable & Telecommunications Association (CCTA) and founder of the Walter Kaitz Foundation, will be honored Sept. 22 at the 21st annual Kaitz Foundation dinner in New York. The foundation, created in 1980 in memory of his father, Walter, promotes minority advancement in the cable industry.
Spencer Kaitz has been a lifelong champion of cultural diversity, values he inherited from his parents. Walter Kaitz, who also headed CCTA, was a Russian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. and "felt this country was a sanctuary for his family and provided tremendous opportunities for everyone," says his son. He urged his children to be open-minded. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Kaitz family lived on a multicultural street in Hayward, Calif., and Kaitz and his sisters attended integrated schools. 'The world I lived in was diverse, and no one thought anything of it," he says. Of course, he now knows "I was having an experience that was unusual."
Says Showtime Networks Chairman Matt Blank, "Spencer was diversity before diversity was cool." Blank is co-chair of the dinner with Time Warner Cable Chairman Glenn Britt.
Kaitz grew up in the young cable industry. Walter Kaitz would take his children along to CCTA conferences, posting them at the registration desk and as the welcoming committee. Young Spencer was hooked. After law school at Berkeley, he briefly practiced at a firm but joined his father at the CCTA to lobby for California's fast-growing cable businesses.
At the association, he fervently embraced legislative issues like pole attachments and deregulation. In the early 1980s, as the CCTA was fighting to deregulate cable rates, Kaitz would send "A Call to Arms" memos to California operators, urging them to descend on Sacramento. "He shepherded that effort," says Hearst Entertainment & Syndication President Ray Joslin, a founding trustee of the Kaitz Foundation and former CCTA president. "Twenty-five or 30 senior managers would answer his call."
In 1980, after his father's death, Kaitz and several of his father's colleagues and friends founded the foundation. Over 20 years, the program placed more than 500 minority executives and boasted 80% retention.
In recent years, though, the Kaitz Foundation proved more effective at raising funds than at recruiting executives in a tough employment market. And companies have become more sophisticated in their own minority recruitment. Last fall, the National Cable & Telecommunications Association tucked the Kaitz foundation under its wing and will direct Kaitz's fundraising efforts as grants to other minority-industry groups, such as the National Association of Multi-Ethnicity in Communications, the Emma Bowen Foundation and Women in Cable & Telecommunications. Kaitz, now retired, still controls the $4 million endowment.
The dinner lives on. Well-attended, it's a usually noisy opportunity for cable's leaders to meet and chat. This year, they'll also probably sing: It's Kaitz's 57th birthday.
He's extremely proud of the event and its significance. Says Kaitz, "No one is aware of another industry that has its main social event focused on diversity issues."
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