CLASS OF 2000
Don Meier was the driving force behind one of the most successful series in television, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. He created, directed, and produced the show hosted by Marlin Perkins. “Growing up in Nebraska, I liked the outdoors, but this was beyond my wildest dreams,” Don said.
Don ran the library and taught school in Oshkosh, Nebraska. While studying at the University of Nebraska, Meier became interested in broadcasting and took all the radio courses the university offered at the time. After college, Meier served in the Army during World War II, including serving for a year at the Pentagon. While in the Army, he rose to the level of lieutenant colonel.
Afterward, he headed to Chicago to work at a small experimental TV station (the forerunner to today’s WMAQ TV) doing virtually everything. With that training ground, he moved to NBC. He was Director of the Dave Garroway Show in the 1950s and went on to produce shows like Quiz Kids, Mr. Wizard, and Zoo Parade. His involvement with Perkins on Zoo Parade led to his decision to take the camera beyond the zoo and to develop a pilot of Wild Kingdom.
After 84 rejections, Meier finally found a sponsor for the show with Mutual of Omaha. It quickly became a family television favorite with its travel to different places showing untamed nature. As producer, Meier demanded all material be zoologically accurate. The show ran Sundays on NBC and later in syndication for 25 years.
Don’s show received many accolades including the first National Wildlife Federation Award and four Emmys. Meier in 1993 established a scholarship to benefit a freshman broadcasting major at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln and also endowed scholarships in the university’s colleges of law and business.
Don Meier passed away on July 13, 2019, at the age of 104.