Lesley University Biography for Donna Halper
BIOGRAPHY OF DONNA L. HALPER author, educator, media historian, radio consultant
Donna L. Halper, PhD is an associate professor of Communication and Media Studies at Lesley University, Cambridge MA. She is the author of six books and many articles, in newspapers, magazines, and academic journals. Her most recent book is a newly revised and expanded second edition of “Invisible Stars: A Social History of Women in American Broadcasting.” She is also the author of a well-received local history, “Boston Radio 1920-2010,” which tells the story of Boston radio in words and pictures.
Dr. Halper is a widely quoted media historian, frequently called upon by newspapers and magazines to comment on trends in media. She is also a free-lance writer: among her many published articles are “Can Radio Really Educate?” a 2021 piece for the online academic journal JSTOR DAILY, “Doing the Right Thing: Remembering the Local Reporter who Stood up for Fairness,” a 2021 piece in the Paris (TX) News; “So, Where Does Radio Go From Here?,” a 2021 article in Radio World; “Preserving the Story of Greater Boston’s Pioneering Broadcast Stations 1XE and WGI,” which appeared in the AWA Review in 2018; and “Father Michael J. Ahern: Boston’s First Radio Priest,” a 2017 article in Boston’s Catholic newspaper, The Pilot. Dr. Halper has also written numerous biographical sketches about baseball history for SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) including research about Negro Leagues games and sportswriters. Among her articles are Frank “Fay” Young, the Dean of Black Sportswriters; The First Negro Leagues Game Broadcast on Radio; and The First No-Hitter in the Negro National League.
Her research on media history and popular culture has resulted in appearances on both radio and TV. These include C-Span (where she discussed four female radio pioneers), CBS Sunday Morning (where she was part of a segment on car radios), BBC-4 (where she discussed the exercise craze of the 1920s), and guest segments on PBS/NewsHour, CTV News (Toronto), National Public Radio/Weekend America, History Channel, ABC Nightline, WBZ Radio, WBZ-TV (Boston), NBC 10 (Boston), WGBH-FM and GBH-TV (Boston), WBUR-FM (Boston), and numerous podcasts and webcasts.
Dr. Halper is a frequent public speaker. A talk she gave at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown NY, “Written Out of History: Women Baseball Writers, 1905–1945,” was later published in 2019 in The Cooperstown Symposium on Baseball and American Culture, 2017–2018, ed. William Simons. McFarland & Co. She has also given talks at universities, libraries, and civic organizations on topics that include the History of Fake News, the History of Boston Radio, and Changing Representations of Women and Minorities on Radio and TV.
Donna Halper spent over four decades in broadcasting, including more than 28 years as a radio programming and management consultant, working with both college and commercial stations, all over North America. Prior to becoming a consultant, she spent thirteen years as an announcer, music director and assistant program director in four major markets. In addition to her long career in radio, she is well-known for discovering the rock band Rush, who dedicated their first two albums to her. She is seen in the 2010 documentary about them, “Beyond the Lighted Stage,” and is seen in a 2020 Fantoons music video commemorating the 40th anniversary of the song “Spirit of Radio.”
She attended Northeastern University in Boston, where she was the first woman announcer in the school’s history, broadcasting a nightly show on the campus radio station beginning in October 1968. She completed a BA (English), M.Ed. (Counseling), and MA (English) at Northeastern; she received her PhD in Communication from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst in May 2011, writing her dissertation on how early radio changed American society.
Dr. Halper has been a professor at Lesley University, Cambridge MA, since 2008. In addition to developing and teaching courses in Media Analysis, Communication Ethics, Introduction to Journalism, and other media-related subjects, she also advises the student newspaper, the Lesley Public Post, which she helped to create. Prior to Lesley, she spent 18 years as an instructor at Emerson College in Boston, where she taught in the Journalism Department and in the Institute for Liberal Arts.
In 2021, Dr. Halper won a Broussard Award from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, for her historical research and her use of Restorative Narratives. She is also a collector of rare memorabilia related to the history of broadcasting; in 2018, she was awarded the 9th Annual Collectors’ Prize by Historic New England. Since 1984, she has been the advocate for an adult with autism; she has also worked as a mentor, a tutor, and a Big Sister.